Becoming a parent can be a joyous event that many dream of and hope to experience one day. Modern medicine and technology give us more options for family planning than we previously had. Freezing your eggs is a way for you to take control of your fertility and your future.
Egg freezing is a procedure that harvests your eggs and then freezes them until you're ready to start building your family. To determine if egg freezing is right for you, let's begin by learning about the procedure and how it can affect your health and life.
How Does Egg Freezing Work?
Technically known as oocyte cryopreservation, egg freezing begins with harvesting a person's eggs and then freezing them for storage until they are ready to attempt pregnancy in the future through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
A woman's ovaries release one egg during a normal menstrual cycle. For egg freezing, the preference is ten or more eggs for the freezing process. This requires some preparation before the actual retrieval of the eggs is done.
The egg freezing process usually requires three steps:
1. Hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple follicles.
2. A physician monitors follicle growth with ultrasounds and blood hormone levels.
3. With a transvaginal ultrasound to guide the process, a physician retrieves the eggs, which are immediately frozen.
Egg freezing patients take hormone injections every day for approximately ten days, and are monitored throughout this process. After about two weeks of medication, the egg retrieval procedure is performed, and the mature eggs are flash frozen immediately.
These hormone injections are fertility drugs that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs simultaneously, rather than the usual single egg. These injections are usually self-administered. Once harvested, the eggs go into storage at ultra-cold temperatures. When the person is ready to attempt a pregnancy, the eggs are thawed and combined with sperm. If any embryos develop, they may be transferred to the person's uterus, frozen as embryos and/or tested for genetic abnormalities.
Different factors determine whether freezing eggs is a good option for you. Your doctor will discuss these with you if you decide to investigate your choices in managing your fertility. For many, the number one point of consideration is their "biological clock."
The number and the quality of the eggs released from a person's ovaries decrease as they ages. When a person reaches menopause, usually between the ages of 45 and 55, they will eventually stop ovulating or releasing eggs from the ovaries.
The most important factor in successful egg freezing is the age of the person providing the eggs. The supply of a person's eggs declines more rapidly beginning around age 37. In addition, by the time a woman is 43, fully 90% of their eggs are abnormal, meaning they lack the potential for a successful pregnancy.
Freezing eggs at 40 or before is likely to achieve pregnancy when those eggs are thawed and fertilized in the future. Rarely is it recommended that someone freezes their eggs after age 40, but this is on a case-by-case basis. Frozen eggs can remain in ultra-cold storage for years, possibly indefinitely.
When is the Best Time to Freeze Your Eggs?
Advances infertility technology now make pregnancy rates from frozen eggs equivalent to those from fresh eggs. The best egg freezing success rates come from eggs harvested and frozen when individuals are in their 20s and early 30s. Persons in this age range have much healthier eggs, but their status will decline as time goes on. If a person under 35 years old harvests and freezes 15 to 20 eggs, there is a 70% to 80% chance of giving birth to one child later in life. It is important to remember, therefore, that freezing eggs is not a guarantee of a successful pregnancy in the future.
Does Egg Freezing Have Any Side Effects?
Freezing your eggs does not guarantee a pregnancy later in life. Some eggs will not survive, some will fail to fertilize, and some will lead to a pregnancy. As with any pregnancy, there is a risk of miscarriage with frozen eggs. The risk you face is based primarily on your age when you harvested your eggs.
After undergoing the egg retrieval process, some may experience uncomfortable side effects, such as bloating, cramping, and spotting. These are the most common egg freezing side effects. The extra hormones given as injections can produce side effects such as weight gain, mood swings, and headaches.
A rare side effect known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)can cause pain, nausea, and weight gain of over ten pounds in three to five days. OHSS can also trigger shortness of breath and blood clots in the legs, but this side effect is extremely rare.
The egg freezing long-term side effects are rare. For most, egg retrieval and freezing are safe procedures, and severe side effects are rare.
Does Insurance Cover Egg Freezing?
Insurance coverage varies, so check with your health insurance company about your coverage and out-of-pocket expenses. Currently, very few companies will cover the costs of elective egg freezing. An estimated cost can range from $6,000 to $10,000 foreach egg harvesting and freezing procedure.
There is no guarantee that the process, referred to as the egg freezing cycle, will produce enough mature eggs. If not, another round, and the bill to go with it, is necessary. In addition, the fees for storing frozen eggs usually start at around $600 per year.
The entire process, from collecting and freezing the eggs to thawing them for a single transfer, can cost around$20,000. This figure assumes the first transfer is successful. If no pregnancy results and the person is willing to meet the cost again, another attempt can be scheduled.
Where Can I Learn More About Egg Freezing?
Here are a few foundations specializing in infertility and how to treat it. They offer information and assistance if needed.
• OVA Egg Freezing Foundation
• The National Infertility Association
• The Hope for Fertility Foundation
• The Fertility Foundation
Ready to Discuss Your Fertility Options?
If you're ready to discuss your fertility options with experts who are setting the standard in fertility care, the Institute for Human Reproduction (IHR) is waiting for you. Connect with us to learn more.