Egg freezing isn’t a new concept; in fact, the procedure has been around since the 1980s, though back then it was solely reserved for women with critical medical problems. Today, the procedure is rapidly growing in popularity amongst young, healthy women of all backgrounds. A mere 475 women froze their eggs in 2019, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). By 2018, 13,275 women did, an increase of 2,695%. There are numerous reasons why more women are hoping to preserve their fertility. Some women simply do not want children right now but may later. Some women haven’t met the right person and may use a sperm donor down the road to become a single mother by choice. Some women suffer from certain medical conditions like cancer or endometriosis which threaten their ability to conceive. With increased societal awareness around infertility, we predict that this procedure will only become more commonplace as the years go by. If you are considering freezing your eggs, it’s helpful to know what the process is really like. Keep reading to find out.
Egg Freezing Process Step-By-Step
Step # 1 Ovarian Stimulation
Before your eggs can be gathered, you need to get your body ready to produce multiple eggs. In a normal menstrual cycle your ovaries will send out a single egg, however, when you go through the process of freezing your eggs, it’s much more efficient to have several, around 8 or more. Your physician will give you synthetic hormones to get your ovaries pumping out multiple eggs and to prevent premature ovulation. Some of the most common injectables for ovarian stimulation include follitropin alfa or beta (Follistim AQ, Gonal-f) or menotropins (Menopur). While you undergo frequent needle pokes, your Doctor will monitor your ovarian follicles to determine when you are ready for retrieval. Most patients are ready for egg retrieval after about 10 – 14 days.
Step #2 Egg Retrieval
When the Doctor determines that you are ready for retrieval, another medication is administered to help the eggs mature. From there, your medical team will conduct a transvaginal ultrasound to identify the follicles. Next, a needle is placed into the vagina and eggs are taken using a suction device. Many patients experience bloating and abdominal cramping post-retrieval though side effects vary.
Interesting fact: A 2011 study of 400,000 IVF cycles found that live birth rates and the number of eggs retrieved in one IVF cycle were connected. The likelihood of success rose with each additional egg retrieved, up to about 15 eggs.
Step # 3 Freezing
After your unfertilized eggs are harvested, they’re frozen to preserve them for future use using a process called vitrification. Essentially, your eggs are rapidly frozen into a glass-like state and certain chemicals are used to prevent ice crystals from forming, which could damage the eggs.
All in all, the procedure can cost upwards of $12,000 though some companies offer insurance coverage. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, check out Coastal Fertility’s new package.
What Egg Freezing Is Like From Those That Have Been There
In September of this year, Sara Jacobs the second-youngest woman in Congress spoke about her experience with freeing her eggs. When asked what the process was like for her, she had this to say, “There were some hard days, and now I have to do shots three times a day. My body definitely hurts…The shots are not enjoyable for sure. But I feel really confident in my decision and really empowered and grateful that I’m able to make this choice. “
Instagram creator @bangonstyle shared her fertility journey back in February of this year. As a single woman, she decided to freeze her eggs as a proactive measure. She explained that the process was, “daunting, scary, emotional and uncertain even more so in the midst of a pandemic. Countless scans, barrages of information, medication and injections & I won’t lie I did on occasion sit at the clinic by myself and feel utterly alone. I’ll be forever proud that I made the leap to try and took this proactive step in my life and to everyone who held my hand throughout both physically and metaphorically…”
Another Instagram user, British fitness enthusiast @janiekoroleva, gave her followers a raw and intimate look into her egg freezing experience.
“A couple of days post the op, with ??? in the freezer I want to share a snippet of my experience to help de-taboo this incredible process that I have found so truly transformational. I had pretty much zero knowledge about egg freezing prior to my first consultation and I learnt as I went along. I have learnt to see egg freezing, most of all, as something that gives us options – options to have babies later in life, for those of us who are still keen to pursue our careers; options to adult a little bit later; options to not settle for a partner who is less that what we deserve…Most importantly, in the short period of two weeks that this process takes, I learnt the deepest appreciation for my body like I’ve never experienced it before. I have felt confidence and the feeling of control over my life that has felt very empowering.”
Egg freezing and other fertility treatments are expensive, so much so that many hopeful parents give up on having children. The Gift of Parenthood organization is on a mission to educate, inspire, and provide fertility grants for couples and individuals across the nation. If you would like to help us make parenthood possible for those struggling, consider donating here. If you are interested in applying for a grant, click here.