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Egg Freezing: Common Questions Answered

Whether you want to focus on your career, are receiving gender affirming care, or haven’t found the right partner, freezing your eggs can offer you the freedom to choose when and how you start your family. While the journey to parenthood differs for everyone, egg freezing is a great option for those who are not quite ready to conceive.   

What is egg freezing?  

The clinical term for egg freezing is oocyte cryopreservation. Oocyte is the scientific name for the ovum or egg. Egg freezing is a process during which mature eggs are retrieved from your ovaries, frozen by a method called vitrification, and then stored at a cryopreservation facility until you are ready to start in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

This technology was developed to forestall the effects of aging on female fertility. The reality is that you are born with all of the eggs you will ever have, and you only have so many years before their quality and quantity begins to decline. Once your ovarian reserve is depleted, you’ll enter menopause. Egg freezing not only ensures that you will have viable eggs when you want to start having kids, it also saves them from the impact aging has on egg quality. 

How do you freeze your eggs?  

From start to finish, the egg freezing process takes about two weeks. Our Egg Freezing Guide provides a more comprehensive rundown of the process, but it starts at the beginning of a menstrual cycle, often referred to as Day 1.  Once the eggs have matured following your ovarian stimulation cycle, they are retrieved using a needle inserted into your ovaries and are then stored for later use. Recovery time is usually brief,, but you’ll be given medication to help with any discomfort. Age is a leading factor in decreasing egg quality, which is why many women opt to freeze their eggs when their egg quality is still relatively high. 

How long does an egg freezing cycle take? 

An egg freezing cycle takes place during one menstrual cycle. On Day 2 or 3 of your cycle, you begin hormone injections multiple times a day for 8-12 days. From cycle days 5-14, you will have doctors visits and blood work done, usually every other day, in order to ensure everything is progressing smoothly with the maturation of your eggs follicles. On day 14 of your cycle, or when your follicles are deemed mature enough, you receive your trigger shot, a medication that prepares the eggs to be released for retrieval 36 hours later. After this, your eggs are safely stored away for when you are ready to use them. 

When is the best time to freeze your eggs?  

There are a lot of things to consider as you decide when to freeze your eggs. As you age, the quality and number of eggs you have in your ovarian reserve decreases. Naturally, this leads many women to consider freezing in their younger years to ensure that they have enough viable eggs available when they are ready to start their family. However, you also should consider that freezing your eggs too early can mean that you’ll be more likely to conceive without using your frozen eggs at all. 

Should you freeze your eggs in your 20s?  

While your 20s represent the stage at which your eggs are healthiest, freezing your eggs in your 20s may not always be the best idea. Currently, there is little data to suggest that women who’ve frozen their eggs in the 20s have then used those eggs to get pregnant. On average, women in the US store their eggs for five to ten years. The younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the harder it can be to predict when and if you’ll need them. This is something to consider when you are investing in egg freezing and storage. 

Should you freeze your eggs in your 30s?  

According to the experts, your 30s are the “sweet spot” for egg freezing. Egg quality is still relatively high in your 30s, so you don’t have to worry that you waited too long. Your early 30s are the recommended time for oocyte cryopreservation because this is the age at which women are most likely to actually use the eggs they have frozen.  

Can you still freeze your eggs in your 40s? 

While it is technically possible to freeze your eggs in your 40s, it is unlikely that your fertility specialist will recommend doing so. This is because once you reach your 40s, the quality of your ovarian reserve will be diminished. Additionally, aneuploidy is much more common at this age, meaning that even if you are able to retrieve enough eggs, the embryos they develop into may not be viable for transfer. It is much more common for fertility specialists to recommend that women in their 40s use donated eggs or embryos for their IVF treatment. 

How many eggs should you freeze?  

The amount of eggs you should freeze depends both on your age and on how many children you want. The general rule is that you should retrieve about 10 eggs per child you want to have. Depending on your age, this number may be higher. The important thing to keep in mind is that one egg does not equal one baby. Not every fertilized egg develops into a viable embryo. At the beginning of the egg-freezing process, your fertility specialist will do bloodwork and an ultrasound to get an idea of how many eggs you should expect to retrieve, based on your fertility goals. 

Will you need more than one egg retrieval procedure?  

The number of egg retrieval procedures you need will depend on your ovarian reserve, how you respond to fertility medication, and the number of eggs you are aiming to freeze. While it is beneficial to talk to others about their experiences with egg freezing, it is important not to assume you’ll have a similar experience. Each person’s frozen embryo transfer timeline and the egg retrieval timeline will be dependant on their own bodies, as this article highlights.  

How much does egg freezing cost? 

Egg freezing can cost anywhere from $10-15,000 in the USA, as well as the additional cost of $500-1200 per year for egg storage. Most women undergo at least two cycles in order to ensure they have enough viable eggs. While the cost is high, it can be worth discussing insurance coverage options to see if you are eligible. Companies like Lilia also offer egg freezing packages that can help reduce the costs. 

Does freezing your eggs impact your fertility?  

It is a common misconception that egg retrieval can deplete your ovarian reserve and throw you into early menopause. The reality is that you won’t be retrieving any more eggs than you’d normally lose in a menstrual cycle. In an average menstrual cycle, only one follicle reaches maturity to be released into the uterus. However, multiple follicles are primed, and when they fail to mature are discarded. The hormone medications you take during the egg retrieval process will ensure that most of the follicles primed during a given menstrual cycle mature into viable eggs that can then be retrieved and cryopreserved. This means that it does not have a negative effect on your ovarian reserves, but simply provides a backup option if you are unable to conceive naturally.  

What are common side-effects of fertility medications?  

While the side-effects of fertility medications will differ for each person, some symptoms are more common than others. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms for those taking fertility medication are mood changes or mood swings and temporary physical side effects such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, bloating and breast tenderness. You could have some of these symptoms or none at all, so it is  best to listen to the experiences of others, but not to expect to have the exact same side effects yourself.  

How worried should you be about OHSS?  

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (or OHSS) occurs when there are very high levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG. Those who are at higher risk of developing OHSS are women with PCOS, those who have a large number of follicles or high estrogen levels during IVF cycles, and those who have opted to undergo a “fresh” instead of frozen embryo transfer. OHSS only occurs in about 5% of cases. 

Can you still have sex during your egg freezing cycle?  

Yes, you can still have sex during your egg freezing cycle, but you should be extra careful to use protection as you will be producing more viable eggs than usual, making it much easier to get pregnant. There may also be leftover mature eggs after your retrieval. It’s also very common for your overies to become enlarged during this process, which can cause discomfort during sex, or even when exercising. 

How long after your egg retrieval will it take to get your period again? 

This can depend on how your body reacts to the hormones administered during oocyte cryopreservation and egg retrieval. However, in most cases you can expect to get your period again approximately 1-2 weeks after your egg retrieval process. Once your eggs are retrieved, the rest of your menstrual cycle follows its natural course.  

How long can you store your eggs for?  

There is no known limit to how long eggs can be stored. While you should consider the annual cost of egg storage, you can store them for years on end with no known repercussions. Most women tend to use their eggs within 10 years of freezing them, so there is a significant amount of flexibility with regards to when you are ready to start your family and how long your eggs can be frozen.  

What if you don’t use all of your eggs?  

If you don’t use all of your eggs, there are plenty of fertility support options with regards to what you can do with them. A common option is donating your eggs to those who cannot produce their own using trusted services such as Egg Donation Inc and Lilia. These options help to deal with infertility in women and make fertility support more accessible to all, with background checks and egg profiles included in the service.