You’ve likely heard about the process called egg freezing (sometimes called “fertility preservation”), where they stimulate the follicles in the ovaries and retrieve unfertilized eggs to preserve them for future use.
But what exactly does that process look like? And why would someone want to go through it? Read on—we’ll explain everything you need to know about egg freezing.
The process for freezing eggs
While it may sound like a very intense process—and for some women, the side effects of the medications used to stimulate the eggs can certainly feel that way—freezing your eggs is actually a safe and minimally invasive procedure.
- Take our quiz to find affordable egg freezing options near you, including our Split program (where you can freeze your eggs for free if you give half to another family who can’t conceive) and our Keep program (where you can freeze your eggs more affordably and keep them all for your own future use). If you’d like to participate in Split, you can move forward with that application right away. If you’d like to join our Keep program, we’ll email you your options once you take the quiz.
- With Keep, the egg freezing process begins with a consult with your fertility doctor. They will do some initial testing to determine the current health of the eggs your ovaries are producing, both in number and in quality. You’ll undergo bloodwork and an ultrasound to get a sense of this.
- Next, you’ll likely undergo some general health screenings to make sure you’re not carrying any viruses that could complicate the process (like HIV or certain forms of hepatitis).
- Once your health check is through, you’ll likely begin a series of medications, including ones that will stimulate your ovaries and/or prevent early ovulation. You’ll give yourself shots daily. If you freeze with Cofertility, we’ll provide you with step by step videos to ease the transition.
- Around this time, you can also join the Cofertility Member Portal, where you can connect with (and lean on) other women freezing their eggs at the exact same time!
- Your doctor will monitor you during this time to confirm that the medications are working and that your estrogen levels are increasing while keeping your progesterone levels low. You may also undergo a vaginal ultrasound to monitor the condition of the follicles where your eggs will eventually mature.
- After 10 to 14 days you’ll start a medication to help speed up egg maturity ahead of your egg retrieval.
- The retrieval process happens under light sedation and involves using a vaginal ultrasound and a needle with a suction device to retrieve the eggs—this sounds more intense than it is.his procedure is normally done right in the clinic and takes about 10 minutes.
- Once the eggs are retrieved, they’re flash frozen and stored in subzero temperatures, normally with a substance like liquid nitrogen to prevent the development of ice crystals.
- You can go home after the procedure and rest up!
How your body responds to the process
Everyone’s body will react differently to each step of the egg freezing process. While some women will experience bloating or hormonal responses from the medications that stimulate egg maturation, others may feel much less. You might experience some mild cramping or bloating following the retrieval process as your ovaries continue to remain enlarged from the medications used.
Additionally, you’ll have an increased risk of pregnancy in the week following your retrieval. Because of this, many doctors suggest avoiding unprotected sex during this time period.
The goals for women who freeze their eggs can differ
Not everyone has the same intentions when they start the process of freezing their eggs. Some women may hope to prolong their reproductive years until they’re ready to have children, while others may be hoping to use their frozen eggs as donor eggs to help someone else who is trying to start a family.
One thing all of these women have in common is that they’re hoping to improve their chances of those eggs eventually resulting in a healthy baby. To some extent, the more eggs there are, the better the chances of those resulting in a life birth. But we also know that egg quality is important. The number one factor impacting egg quantity and quality? Age.
A study in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics confirmed that the probability of at least one live birth varies with the number of mature eggs available and the age of the woman trying to conceive. For example, a woman under 35 who is trying to conceive will need 9 mature eggs to achieve a 70% chance of having at least one live birth. If you’re trying to conceive in your mid to late 30s, you may need double as many eggs to achieve that same 70% success rate.
Because women in their 30s tend to produce less eggs, women who are freezing their eggs at this age may end up having to either settle for fewer eggs or undergo multiple rounds to collect enough eggs to have on hand for later implantation. As you can imagine, those costs can creep higher and higher the more rounds you endure, driving up the price tag and the risk of failure.
Some things to consider about freezing your eggs
There are obviously many factors that go into the freezing process; but, there are a few points to consider outside of the physical. You’ll also need to account for the cost—you not only need to pay for all of the testing and procedure plus monthly storage fees until you’re ready to fertilize your eggs. To this end, you will likely need to budget an extra $550-$1,000 a year to pay a company to store and monitor your eggs after they’ve been retrieved and frozen.
These procedures can quickly add up to a few thousand dollars—likely anywhere between $8,000 to $20,000. That price can be too high for some, which is why we’ve developed our Split program. With Split, you can freeze your eggs for free, if you qualify and donate half of your retrieved eggs to an intended parent who matches with your profile.
Getting a jump start on your fertility is a wise choice
Deciding to freeze your eggs is a proactive choice and a good idea if you’re not sure exactly when you’ll be ready to start a family (if you even want to). It’s also perfect for anyone who wants to retrieve healthy eggs before undergoing chemotherapy or a surgical procedure that could alter your fertility chances.
The average age women have become parents has increased over time—with many spending their earlier adult years focused on getting an advanced degree, furthering their careers, or even finding the right partner—however, our biological clocks have remained the same.
Take a look at your options
At Cofertility, we offer a variety of options for freezing your eggs, including our Split program where we’ll help you through the process of stimulating and retrieving your eggs at no cost as long as you donate half the eggs retrieved from each cycle (if you qualify). If donation is not for you, we also have a Keep Program in which you freeze and keep 100% of the eggs for yourself. Contact us today to learn more - no commitment required, but we’d love to talk through can help you take charge of your future reproductive health.