The egg freezing process can feel like a black box. How do you find a clinic to freeze your eggs? How long will the whole process take? And what is this all going to cost?
With thousands of women freezing their eggs every year, there are plenty of options out there for you. Here’s a look at how to make sense of the egg freezing process and how to make sure this is the right path for you.
Breaking down the egg freezing process
Choosing a clinic
The first step in the egg freezing process is choosing a clinic. If you decide to move forward with egg freezing, you will need to visit the clinic for monitoring every few days, so it’s best to choose a facility that’s within driving distance. With Cofertility’s Keep program — where you can freeze your eggs more affordably and keep them all for future use — we’ll help you find a clinic based on your location, their pricing structure, and their success rates.
Our Split program, on the other hand, allows you to freeze your eggs for free if you give half to a family who can’t otherwise conceive and you qualify.
Once you’ve settled on a clinic, it’s time to meet with a reproductive endocrinologist (REI, or fertility specialist) to talk about the egg freezing process. You’ll get a chance to find out more about how egg freezing works at your chosen facility, discuss any risks of the procedure, and talk through any family-building goals. If kids are still a TBD, no problem!
Note that some clinics will only work with women under 40 when it comes to egg freezing. Research indicates egg quality begins to decrease in a woman’s early 30s and declines more rapidly past age 35. Because of this, you must be under 40 to participate in our Keep program.
Age is only one factor, however. During your egg freezing consultation, the REI will ask questions about your menstruation history, any past pregnancies, and your overall health.
Evaluation and bloodwork
After (or during) your consultation with an REI, the next part of the egg freezing process is bloodwork and other testing to determine if you are a good candidate for egg freezing.
This testing may include:
- Ovarian reserve testing: Your doctor will order bloodwork to evaluate your egg supply. These blood tests may screen for anti-mullerian hormones (AMH), follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) and estradiol. Importantly, these labs can predict how your body will respond to the injectable fertility medications used in an egg freezing cycle. You’ll also do a (painless) transvaginal ultrasound, which will show how many egg-containing follicles your ovaries contain as a baseline.
- Disease testing: Bloodwork will help your doctor assess whether you have any infectious diseases such as HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Connecting with your community
If you’re freezing your eggs through Cofertility’s programs, you’ll be able to utilize our Member portal to connect with other women freezing their eggs at the exact same time. Support one another, ask each other questions, and gain confidence as you begin your fertility journey.
Most women’s bodies release just one egg a month during the menstrual cycle. In order to freeze more than one egg, injectable medications will be taken over a period of a couple weeks. These meds will stimulate your ovaries to produce more eggs in a single cycle.
Most women can give themselves the injections, which are needed 1-2 times per day for about two weeks. The medications do carry some side effects, including bloating, headaches and moodiness. About 0.5 - 5% of women develop a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), in which fluid accumulates around the ovaries and causes discomfort and bloating. While the condition can occasionally be severe, it is typically temporary with symptoms subsiding about a week after your egg retrieval.
Medications commonly prescribed in the egg freezing process include:
- Follitropin alfa or beta (Follistim, Gonal-f)— Used to stimulate the ovaries
- Menotropins (Menopur) — Used to stimulate the ovaries
- Ganirelix or Cetrorelix (Cetrotide) — Used to prevent premature ovulation
- Leuprolide acetate (Lupron) — Used to prevent premature ovulation or as a trigger shot to help eggs mature
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (Pregnyl, Ovidrel) — Used as a trigger shot to help the eggs mature
If you choose to freeze your eggs through Cofertility’s Keep program, you’ll be able to take advantage of partnerships and discounts on medication costs to help lighten the load.
More blood tests and monitoring
Once you’ve started hormone injections, your REI will keep a close eye on you to make sure things are moving along smoothly. You’ll visit the clinic every few days to undergo bloodwork and ultrasound so the doctors can determine how your ovaries are responding to the medication and if it’s time to retrieve your eggs.
This process usually lasts around two weeks until the fertility specialist determines egg development has reached a point where it’s time for all your eggs to be retrieved.
During this time, it’s recommended that you abstain from sex or use barrier methods of contraception as the medications can make your body more fertile, increasing your chances of getting pregnant. You’ll also want to decrease exercise during the stimulation phase to prevent ovarian torsion, or twisting.
Also called aspiration, the egg retrieval process is done right at your fertility clinic where your REI will use a mild sedative or anesthesia. With the help of a guiding ultrasound, your doctor will use a special needle that’s inserted into the ovarian follicles to remove multiple eggs.
Although you may feel some cramping and general discomfort after the procedure, the egg retrieval is not usually painful. You should plan to have someone with you that day to drive you home from the doctor’s office, but many women are able to return to work within a day or two after the procedure.
Because your ovaries are enlarged, you may continue to feel cramping and a feeling of fullness for a couple weeks. You will also be advised to avoid unprotected sex in the weeks directly after the egg freezing process as your chances of getting pregnant may be higher during this time.
Once the eggs are removed from the ovary, you’ve reached the final step of the egg freezing process. The eggs undergo a process called vitrification.
Eggs are then frozen to subzero temperatures and can be stored for years to come, ready to be thawed if you decide you want to use them for in vitro fertilization (IVF). With Cofertility’s Keep program, we offer our Members discounts and promotions on various parts of the egg freezing process to help make it more affordable.
A second egg freezing process
Depending on how many eggs were able to be retrieved, your doctor may recommend a second round of medication and another retrieval.
The number of eggs you should freeze will depend largely on your age — researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts have created a calculator that estimates the likelihood of live birth for elective egg freezing in women. Although it’s not exact, it does supply some probabilities to help you make a decision on whether you should do a second cycle of egg freezing.
For example, they estimate if a 30-year-old woman has frozen 15 eggs, she has an 83% chance of giving birth to one child from those eggs. She has a 50% chance of giving birth twice and a 22% chance of having a third child with the use of her frozen eggs.
Costs of the egg freezing process
Another factor to consider when deciding if you want to proceed with the egg freezing process — or undergo a second cycle — is cost. Around the country, the process of freezing your eggs can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 or even more, and there are yearly costs for storage of eggs after the retrieval process.
At Cofertility, we’ve made it our mission to make egg freezing more accessible. With discounts, partnerships and promotions, we’re hoping to remove lack of affordability as a barrier to fertility preservation. To get a sense of pricing (and savings!) for our Keep program with clinics in your area, take our quiz to tell us more about yourself.
Unfortunately, most insurance companies do not pay for many egg freezing costs unless it has been deemed medically necessary for a woman. Cofertility’s offerings, similarly, are self-pay.
There’s a lot going on during the egg freezing process and a whole lot to consider. The homework you’re doing now will make all the difference as you move along through the process and can ask all the right questions!