7 Things You Should Know if You’re Freezing Your Eggs
Egg freezing (clinically referred to as oocyte cryopreservation) is growing in popularity among women who are considering their fertility treatment options. It is a procedure that allows you the freedom of starting your family when you feel you are ready. While it is a great option, women could benefit from being more informed about the egg-freezing process and subsequent storage. The egg retrieval timeline and its related costs and side-effects can vary from person to person, and it can be jarring to have side-effects you were not expecting. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common facts women wished they’d known before freezing their eggs.
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is a fertility treatment option where mature eggs are retrieved from your ovaries and preserved in an egg storage facility until you are ready to use them. To stimulate the development of multiple eggs, the egg-freezing process involves taking hormone injections and frequent doctors’ visits to ensure that your body is responding well to the medications and to track your fertility. This procedure is for those facing infertility in women, as well as women who want to prioritize their careers, health, or simply are not ready to start their family yet. Through the egg-freezing process, you can better ensure that you will have healthy eggs unaffected by aging and viable for years to come.
1. Committing to egg freezing means committing to IVF
If you are committing to egg freezing, this means that you are also committing to undergoing a frozen embryo transfer through IVF. The IVF egg retrieval timeline varies slightly from person to person, however it commonly takes about two to three weeks and numerous checkups for the process to be completed. While IVF is one of the most common forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART), it is still important to do your research on IVF treatment and what exactly it entails in order to understand the commitment you are making. During your initial consultations with your doctor, it can be helpful to ask about the IVF egg retrieval timeline, as well as the potential side-effects that can occur throughout the frozen embryo transfer’s timeline.
2. Freezing your eggs can help overcome infertility roadblocks, but it’s not a guarantee
The egg-freezing process can be a great way to ensure you continue to have high quality eggs as you age, but keep in mind that there are no guarantees when it comes to fertility. Even IVF, a technology that has helped over a million babies be born in the US, doesn’t offer a 100% success rate for all couples. That said, frozen embryo transfers (FET) as part of the IVF treatment plan tend to offer higher IVF success rates than fresh embryo transfers. Freezing your eggs and undergoing FET-IVF have the added benefit of offering more freedom to start your fertility journey on your own timetable.
3. You’ll probably need more than one retrieval procedure, especially if you are planning for multiple children
Every woman’s body is different, and so is their follicle count. Genetic factors and age both play large roles in the number of mature follicles a woman can produce in a menstrual cycle. This means that many women choosing to freeze their eggs will have to undergo more than one egg retrieval process to ensure they have enough viable eggs in storage. During the egg retrieval process, it is recommended that 10 eggs are collected for each child you wish to have. This means that depending on the amount of follicles and viable eggs you produce during egg freezing cycles, you may have to do multiple rounds if you are aiming for multiple children. Considering the fact that not all mature follicles will be of suitable quality for a frozen embryo transfer, having a high number of follicles doesn’t mean that they will all result in viable eggs.
4. Make space in your schedule during egg freezing cycle(s)
The egg retrieval timeline will typically be about two to three weeks from start to finish. During this time, you will be taking a daily regimen of fertility medication injections for 8 to12 days, as well as having regular doctors visits for ultrasounds and bloodwork to make sure your body is responding well to the treatment. Depending on the growth of your follicles, usually around day 10 or 12 of your cycle, you will receive the trigger shot and the egg retrieval process will take place approximately 36 hours later (day 11 to 14). It is very important that you adhere to the injection and clinic visit schedule so that your follicle development can be tracked from beginning to end and to ensure that your body is receiving the consistently timed medications. Egg freezing can be a time-consuming process, but is ultimately worth it for the freedom of choosing when to conceive.
5. Fertility medications are the hardest part, but side-effects are easily managed
The side-effects of egg freezing vary from person to person, however some are more common than others. Among the most commonly reported side-effects from the hormone injections are nausea, breast tenderness, bloating, hot flashes, mood swings, and fatigue. With the increased amount of fertility hormones in your body, mood swings are a natural side effect and can vary in severity depending on how your body responds to the medication. These side-effects are temporary, and whatever you may experience will dissipate when you get your period after your egg retrieval.
6. Administering at-home injections is easier than you think
The medications that stimulate egg growth will have to be injected by you or with the assistance of a trusted person. While this task may seem daunting to some, the process is actually fairly simple to learn. Your clinic will likely teach you how to administer these injections, and websites like Very Well Family have helpful step-by-step guides with everything you will need to prepare yourself for the injections and learn to effectively do them at home. If you are afraid of needles and the resulting pain, ice can be used to numb the area beforehand to reduce discomfort and potential bruising. After the first few injections, it will become much easier, and remember, they are only a temporary discomfort.
7. Creating a budget ahead of time helps manage the expense of egg freezing
As with any medical procedure, the egg retrieval and egg freezing process is not free. After adding up the expenses of many medical consultations, the hormone injections, and the egg retrieval process itself, an egg freezing cycle can cost anywhere from $11,000-20,000. There is also an additional storage cost for each year of oocyte cryopreservation.
Some insurance companies are starting to offer coverage for egg freezing, so it is worth it to discuss this option with your insurance company, as well as medical professionals. Companies like Lilia have helped to make egg freezing more accessible by offering competitive egg freezing prices, as well as helping to source donor eggs.
While egg freezing, like most medical procedures, has its pros and cons, the freedom of being able to choose when to conceive is a clear benefit. Egg freezing has empowered many women to live life on their own terms and start a family when they feel they are ready, limiting the stress of a narrowing window of fertility. Doing your own research and sharing your experience with others can help empower you to make decisions about your fertility, but it’s important to remember that this journey will ultimately be unique to you.