Why did you decide to preserve your fertility? What factors did you consider?
I’d inclined towards having children for a while, and when I heard how egg-freezing could allow me to start testosterone without losing that hope, I researched it. After all, IVF is a very expensive process that involves taking the same drugs as cisgender women to boost fertility, so I wanted to be sure that I was fully aware of what the process would entail, should I decide to proceed with it. Most of the deciding factors came from future elements of whether a possible female partner’s eggs could be used to conceive with a sperm donor, and the likelihood of the eggs being used and the process being worth the time, money and resources.
How did you go about it?
We heard about the option of fertility preservation from a Mermaids’ residential, and our GP applied for funding for it straight away as we were aware of the referral period. In the meantime, we researched extensively about the process, how much it would cost if we didn’t get funding, and other options. Once it was approved, the fertility clinic took us on and provided the counselling, education and timetable for the process once they’d ascertained my menstrual cycle.
Did you come across any hurdles?
Our hearts sank when our GP told us that our county currently had no IVF, and the main hurdle was trying to explore other limited options should the funding not get approved. We looked at the chances of natural pregnancy, the importance of biological children versus adopted children, the sex of the future partner and upcoming technologies such as fashioning sperm from female cells.
What did the process involve for you? How much did it cost?
Since the NHS funded my treatment, the entire process would only cost £100 per year of egg storage. After 3 counselling sessions, I started hormones for the following months on day 21 of my cycle. This involved 2 weeks of daily, self-administered Suprecur stomach injections, followed by 2 weeks of Suprecur plus another hormone (that matures eggs) jabs and internal ultrasounds every 2 days. When my ovaries were ready to pop, I took a final injection to release my eggs for a retrieval operation 36 hours later. 10 good eggs were captured and frozen, and one of them posed for a photo that I have at home J
What did you find most difficult about it and how did you overcome this?
After the struggle of brainstorming ways to have children in case the IVF plan didn’t work out, the clinic and GP accepted me very well, and I think the hardest part was managing the medication during school. I not only had to keep track of the work I was missing whilst I was at the clinic, but also plan my injections around my daily routine. My ovaries became painful towards the end of the course and I was often exhausted, so I enlisted the help of a few friends and teachers to help me catch up and to be understanding if I couldn’t work at my usual standard. All in all, having a team supporting me helped tremendously for both the moral and practical support.
What was it like going through this process as someone who identifies as male?
Reconciling my use of the hormones with my male identity was surprisingly straightforward, as I knew I was incredibly lucky to be accessing this opportunity and was always mindful of its purpose. The ultrasounds proved difficult to withstand- both mentally and physically- as it dealt extensively with a part of my body that I’d rather not have. Though my breasts grew and I dealt with frequent mood swings, I managed to keep my feeling of masculinity intact pretty easily. After all, not many men could deal with the same hormonal changes as the first months of pregnancy and escape unscathed!
What advice would you give to other young people who are thinking about whether or not to preserve their fertility?
Think wisely. Is it worth the time and money? The Tavi and other doctors that you see now always bring up the possibility of fertility preservation before starting hormones, yet it does not have to be a ‘stepping stone’ in your trans journey. I was very lucky for the NHS to fund me throughout the process, as an even worse decision than whether you want children is how much you are willing to pay for them! The daily injections and frequent internal ultrasound scans can cause incredible amounts of stress- which need to be managed carefully (especially during school time!).
As well as considering your future course of action with these eggs, the present timing of the treatment is very important too. I started my hormone course at the beginning of Year 12 in a new school (not ideal) but it was vital to have it done then in order to carry on with the current plan of starting blockers in December. The fertility hormones don’t just take a lot of time out of school, they can disrupt your concentration in school too. In essence, there are many more questions that need to be answered other than the decision of wanting children, and it’s often worth talking to others about affected areas of your life that you may not have considered yet.