If you’re considering egg freezing, you probably have a lot of questions.
How much does it cost to freeze my eggs? Is there an age limit to freezing eggs? Does egg freezing hurt?
My name is Stephanie and I am going to answer these questions from my patient-centric perspective, having just frozen my eggs two years ago.
Why Do Women Freeze Their Eggs?
There are a lot of different reasons why women freeze their eggs and all are highly personal. Whatever your reasons, egg freezing is a beautiful way to freeze your fertility in time. For example, I froze my eggs at 31. If I choose to use them when I’m 40, I will have the success rate of a 31 year old (not a 40 year old).
I personally froze my eggs because I knew I wasn’t ready to have a child. I was 31 years old and had lived a traditional corporate life in Chicago. I always had a desire to live abroad and travel the world. Basically, I knew I had a lot more life left to live but I didn’t want to eliminate my chance at motherhood. So, I decided to freeze my eggs in August 2016. And 6 months later, I quit my corporate job and moved to South America. Without egg freezing, I don’t know if I would have had the guts to travel and leave a comfortable lifestyle. Now, I’m living a life that I truly, truly love knowing I have my eggs frozen as an insurance policy.
When I speak to my friends about their personal reasons, they vary greatly. Some women just haven’t found the right partner, and others know they want a child but they just aren’t ready quite yet. Whatever your reason, egg freezing is a good idea when you feel it is right for your life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Is There An Egg Freezing Age Limit?
Always speak to your physician about their opinion on this topic. But if you want advice from someone non-clinical who just went through the process – here it is.
No. There’s technically no age limit.
But, keep in mind basic biology. You are most fertile in your 20s and it declines as you get older. Just like everything else on our bodies, they perform more poorly with age. For example, I can’t do cartwheels the same at 33 as I did when I was 18.
It’s the same principle with your egg quality. Our egg quality declines throughout our 30s but starts to decline faster after 35 and into our early 40s. By mid-40s it’s nearly impossible to get pregnant naturally. To me, it’s interesting to see the abundance of celebrities getting pregnant at older ages. Chances are, many had frozen their eggs in years prior, or use a donor egg (using an egg from a third party from a younger, healthier woman) and then carry the pregnancy.
In my opinion, this has negatively impacted the public’s perception of how easy it is to get pregnant at a later age. If you’re looking for a more detailed description of the perfect age to freeze your eggs, read more here.
What Is The Egg Freezing Process?
The egg freezing process is basically the first half of IVF. Think of it this way…
You grow a certain amount of eggs every month. The most dominant one gets released and flows down your fallopian tube. The rest of the eggs die off.
But when you undergo egg freezing, those eggs that usually die off, don’t. The medications we take during the process cause most of the eggs to grow. Then, the physician is able to retrieve multiple eggs and collect them for future use.
But let’s take a step back.
If you are considering egg freezing, it’s important to know where your hormone levels and egg reserves stand today. My 33 year old body and fertility may not be the same as my friends. So we need to get tested. You can do this through your OB/GYN office (ask them to test your AMH) or get a referral to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. Reproductive Endocrinologists specialize in fertility. These are the docs you want to go to as they go to three more years of school after residency (called a fellowship) to master the science of women’s reproductive health.
Many fertility clinics and reproductive endocrinologists have egg freezing checkup packages so you can get your levels tested to better understand your reproductive health.
Once you get the results, you’ll want to schedule an initial consult with a doctor. Dr. Davis, the founder of this website, offers free consults via Skype or WhatsApp to review your results. Depending on your individual results, the physician can suggest waiting to freeze, or let you know it’s best to egg freeze ASAP. But at the end of the day, the best thing you can do is get your levels tested and understand your current fertility health so you can make educated decisions.
If you want to proceed with egg freezing, you’ll schedule a meeting with your clinic and be prescribed medications. You’ll have to give yourself injections for 8 – 12 days.
Remember that I mentioned your body has one dominant egg that gets released every month? Now, you’ll likely be growing 10+ or more eggs at the same time.
You’ll go in for checkups during these 8 – 12 days to monitor your progress. I think that was the most time-consuming part for me, as I had to get blood draws at 6:00/7:00am and I’m not an early riser. However, at the end of the day it ended up being 5 appointments throughout that 12 day process so it’s very manageable.
Once the doctor feels it’s time, your egg retrieval process will be scheduled. This process is pretty easy. Actually, I was shocked at how easy it was. The retrieval procedure itself takes 10 – 15 minutes. I was under anesthesia so I felt no pain before, during or after the procedure.
The next day, I was told how many successful eggs were retrieved and went back to work.
Does Egg Freezing Hurt?
One of the most common questions I receive from friends is, does egg freezing hurt?
In my opinion, no it did not hurt.
Going into the process, my biggest fear was the injections. I hate needles! However, to reduce the fear, I made sure to have an ice pack and the injection training videos ready on my phone. And once I did my first injection, I took a step back and thought – WOW – I was scared over nothing. By day 10, I was injecting myself in the bathroom of a restaurant during my friend’s birthday dinner.
Keep in mind, the needle size used on these medications is the same needle that a diabetic uses to inject themselves EVERY DAY. In addition, you’re injecting into the fatty tissue in your stomach which makes it even less painful.
Emotionally speaking, I did notice that I cried at silly commercials and movies a bit more often than I normally would. But hey, my estrogen levels were skyrocketing to 5 – 6x higher than normal. You can’t blame a girl.
As you reach day 7, 8 or 9 of your medication regimen you’ll likely notice bloating in your stomach area. It felt like I had eaten a lot Chinese food the night before. Bloat arises because your ovaries are getting quite large by this point. Remember – they are growing multiple eggs on each ovary. This is exactly why physicians recommend reducing vigorous exercise during treatment.
I felt zero pain from the egg retrieval itself and felt normal within hours after the procedure. Perhaps a little tired, but nothing that wasn’t manageable.
With this being said, every human and cycle is different. I had a friend freeze her eggs twice within two years and she mentioned feeling a bit more sluggish the second time around. My advice? Listen to your nurses and docs, drink plenty of liquids and follow their diet recommendations.
Does Egg Freezing Cause Weight Gain?
The entire process of egg freezing lasts about two weeks. I did gain 3 pounds of water weight during my process but it fell off within a few days after the retrieval. But let’s be honest, I’ve done that same thing when I took a week long trip to Cancun, Mexico. It’s not a tremendous weight gain and to me, it was barely noticeable.
Some women also worry because it’s recommended not to exercise during the treatment, so that can put some of us into a funk. But remember ladies, we are doing something phenomenal with our bodies! It’s a two week, very manageable process and I had no noticeable difference in my body after the process was over.
What Were Your Egg Freezing Results?
I had 9 eggs retrieved. If you ask most physicians, this is on the lower end for someone that was 31 years old. My physician wanted me to retrieve at least 10 – 15 eggs. However, these 9 eggs could be amazing quality but I just won’t know until I turn them into embryos down the road.
In addition, I had a low Antral Follicle Count (AFC) for my age (this is why it’s important to get a fertility check-up to understand your current fertility health). The AFC is the number of follicles that grow on my ovaries every month. Usually, there is one egg in each follicle. During your initial fertility checkup, the clinic will take a look to see how many follicles are growing on each ovary and this will provide a good indicator as to how many eggs will be retrieved. I only had an AFC of 8, so knowing that number – 9 was a pretty solid egg retrieval. In addition, my physician said that these numbers, combined with my age, should get me 1 – 2 children. This is good in my book.
However, it has crossed my mind to freeze again in the next year or two. I’m curious if my results differ if I freeze as a 33 year or 34 year old. I am also curious if freezing with a different clinic, lab and medication protocol will make a difference. Luckily, Dr. Joseph Davis does free consults so I’ll be taking my results to him and discussing my options.
How Much Does It Cost To Freeze My Eggs?
Egg freezing costs vary greatly in different parts of the country. In addition, the United States generally has higher prices and more and more patients are considering going abroad for treatment because of it. There are a few different things to think about as it relates to cost.
- Do you have any insurance coverage?
- Although it’s a bit rare to have egg freezing coverage, tech forward companies like Facebook & Google are beginning to offer this service. In addition, since egg freezing is really the first half of IVF, sometimes you can utilize IVF benefits. Check with your employer.
- Treatment Cost
- These costs include bloodwork, procedures, anesthesia, etc. In some cities like New York – treatment can cost $5,000 – $10,000. If you go abroad, these costs can be cut in half.
- Medication Cost
- Medication is completely separate from treatment cost. Sometimes, insurance can cover this portion. Medication will likely run you $2,000 – $5,000. If you go abroad, these costs can be cut in half.
- Is it best to freeze locally or look outside of your geographic area for reduced cost opportunities?
- Cities like New York and Los Angeles have higher prices for egg freezing. Because of this, many are considering treatment with US doctors outside of the traditional United States geography. You can often get a vacation, travel, and egg freezing done abroad for the same price as egg freezing only in a major city. Cayman Fertility Centre is a great example of this. Their US trained physicians are able to cut costs by doing business in a lower cost geographic area. Even with the travel to Cayman Fertility Centre included, the cost is usually about $1,000 – $2,000 less than major cities in the United States.
What Should I Do Next If I’m Thinking About Freezing My Eggs?
If you’re considering freezing your eggs, it’s important to educate yourself as much as possible about the process. You can read our other articles about egg freezing here.
The best first step is to get your levels tested and schedule a consult with a physician to discuss them. If you’re still looking for a clinic, consider Dr. Joseph Davis at Cayman Fertility Centre. Send them a message here and they will get back to you with next steps. They’ll even do a video consult for free via WhatsApp, Zoom or Skype.
Whatever next steps you choose, I think it’s exciting that you’re even considering such a powerful step like egg freezing! For me, egg freezing has allowed me to have piece of mind and spend time living in places like Mexico, Portugal, Colombia and Spain.
Whether you have goals of having a family, killing it in your career or waiting to find the right partner, I hope this article helped you understand egg freezing from a patient’s point of view. If you’re interested in a point of view from a physician side, read our other articles about egg freezing from Dr. Joseph Davis who is a U.S. trained Reproductive Endocrinologist.
Stephanie – Egg Freezing Patient