With advances in science and shifts in societal norms, more and more women are considering freezing their eggs. In fact, between 2009 and 2016, the number of women in the U.S. who froze their eggs rose by more than 1,000%. And during the pandemic, that number increased even more. The reason you might freeze your eggs is undoubtedly personal. Here, we’ll discuss some details about the process to help you decide if it makes sense for you.
What Is Egg Freezing?
Also known as oocyte cryopreservation, egg freezing involves harvesting a woman’s eggs and freezing them to achieve pregnancy at a later time via in vitro fertilization (IVF). When you’re ready, the eggs are thawed and fertilized in a lab before being implanted into your body. The entire procedure varies in price but ranges on average between $10,000 and $20,000.
Who Is a Candidate?
Ideally, the best time to freeze your eggs is in your 20s or early 30s. As women age, the quality and quantity of their eggs begin to decline. Once you’ve decided you are interested in freezing your eggs, your doctor will perform a comprehensive medical exam. They will assess the regularity of your menstrual cycle, discuss your medical history, specifically fertility, and perform a range of lab tests to evaluate your hormone levels. They can help you determine if you are a good candidate for egg freezing.
If you are found to be a good candidate for egg freezing, the next steps include:
- In preparation for freezing your eggs, you will receive hormone injections over the course of 14 days. The hormones effectively stimulate your ovaries, producing multiple eggs instead of just one.
- You will have ultrasounds to check how many follicles (the sacs that contain the eggs) are growing and how well they are developing. Your doctor will also order bloodwork to monitor your hormone levels.
- When your doctor sees that your follicles are mature enough, you’ll be administered a trigger shot, which finishes the egg maturation and begins the ovulation process.
- Once the eggs are ready, your doctor will retrieve them transvaginally from your ovarian follicle with a needle guided via ultrasound. The needle reaches into the ovaries and draws fluid and eggs from each follicle. The procedure lasts about 20-30 minutes. You’ll be provided with IV medications to lightly sedate you, keeping you from feeling any pain.
- As soon as the egg retrieval procedure is over, the eggs are flash-frozen using an ultra-rapid cooling process called vitrification.
What Happens After Your Eggs Are Frozen?
Eggs can stay frozen for many years without weakening, though fertility clinics are regularly tracking research and collecting data about pregnancy rates to gain more knowledge about the procedure and success rates. The longest successful thaw came after 14 years. Storage can be upwards of $1,000 per year.
Once you are ready to use your eggs, the IVF process is expensive. Expect up to $15k for each attempt at pregnancy.
According to One Fertility, it can take about 15 or more frozen eggs to eventually result in a successful embryo due to attrition as eggs are thawed, fertilized, and transferred. So, you may have to complete the egg retrieval twice if you don’t get many eggs with the first retrieval.
This entire process can also produce hormonal changes for a few months. During the process, it’s easy to feel down or agitated. It’s also possible to have what’s called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
While it’s become normalized to freeze your eggs, be sure to research all of the possible cons before starting.