Egg freezing involves the extraction of eggs from a woman’s ovaries and freezing them for implantation at a later date. This option may be ideal for women facing medical procedures that may decrease fertility or damage remaining eggs. Younger eggs are healthier and more likely to be viable. As a woman ages, her eggs can suffer from deterioration. Egg deterioration is one of the reasons later-life pregnancy is more of a challenge; therefore, egg freezing can also be used as a family-planning tool. If you are thinking about utilizing this option for your unique situation, you should know that the ideal age for freezing your eggs is when you are in your late 20s or early 30s.
Similar to the egg donor process, candidates go through extensive medical testing to make sure they are viable candidates for egg freezing and then undergo self-administered hormone injections that manipulate the egg-production cycle. The needles are small and most patients adjust well to using them. Once the eggs reach maturity, they are extracted and frozen. The extraction process happens under sedation making removal as comfortable as possible. Recovery and the return to regular activities occur nearly immediately though some discomfort and cramping may linger. When procreation is desired, a single sperm is injected into the thawed egg, and the zygote is incubated until it reaches embryo status and can be implanted into a uterus.
Since frozen eggs are delicate, they often do not survive the thawing process. The pregnancy rate from this procedure is from 4-12% depending heavily on the age of the eggs frozen, and the number of eggs preserved. Logically, it follows that the more eggs the donor froze, the higher their pregnancy success rate is expected to be. Possible side effects of egg freezing include infection, bleeding from the retrieval process, and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which is when the ovaries become enlarged and fluid collects in the pelvis and abdomen.
The process of freezing your eggs gives you the opportunity to learn about your body, your fertility potential, and your genetics. The process requires a commitment to take medications regularly, inject yourself with hormones, adhere to frequent medical visits for tests and monitoring, and abstaining from sex during your period of heightened fertility. The hormone treatment itself may trigger symptoms similar to menopause and PMS. Therefore, don’t be alarmed if you notice weight gain, as it is likely to be a temporary issue that will resolve after the egg collection is completed.
While freezing your eggs is a helpful family planning tool, the process will cost upwards of $10,000. While the price tag makes finding a “deal” tempting, choosing a doctor– as with all health care decisions– should not be based on sales, promotions, or other retail-like gimmicks. Some employers are championing women’s interest in family-planning and have begun assisting with costs, so be sure to find out if that option is available to you.