Everything you need to know about freezing your eggs

We know this is an overwhelming subject, so here is everything you need to know about freezing your eggs.

The process of freezing your eggs

 

Egg freezing is a method to preserve fertility by extracting eggs from the ovaries and flash freezing them so they can be used in artificial reproductive technology procedures in the future. Although egg freezing isn’t a guarantee of future fertility, it is a way to preserve the quantity and quality of the eggs to provide you with more reproductive options later in life. The
egg freezing process takes around 2 weeks for one cycle. Most often two or more cycles may be needed to harvest enough eggs.

The first step is to meet with your reproductive endocrinologist or Obgyn for a fertility assessment, which encompasses your medical health history, blood work, fertility hormone testing, physical exam, and an ultrasound of the ovaries. With those results, he/she will create a “stimulation protocol” aka – an action plan for you. This plan will help you maximize the number of mature eggs produced and minimize the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

The second step is to begin the stimulation protocol. This protocol involves at-home hormone injections which stimulate your ovaries to develop multiple eggs (called follicles at this point), instead of the single egg they typically produce. This usually takes 10-14 days, during which you’ll receive regular scans and blood tests to monitor how you are responding to the medication and adjust the dose as needed. Around day 5-7 of this protocol, you’ll start an additional medication to prevent ovulation until there are enough follicles ready. Once you have enough follicles and your hormones are at the correct levels you will be provided with a trigger injection. This allows your eggs to fully mature and about 36 hours later egg retrieval occurs.

Step three is the egg retrieval procedure. This lasts 10-20 minutes and your eggs will be evaluated and flash-frozen that same day. During the procedure, you’ll be sedated with mild anesthesia.

The final step is the postoperative period, during which you will rest and recover. You might experience minor side effects, but most women can return to normal activity the following day.

How much does it cost?

 

The price of egg freezing varies depending on your clinic and region. On average, with thecosts of injections and fertility medications, the price of one egg freezing cycle goes up to around $10,000-$12,000. This price usually includes one year of storage for your eggs. Keep in mind two or more cycles may be needed for enough eggs to be retrieved and there are additional costs for long-term storage. Long-term storage varies from $500-$1,000 annually.

There are financial assistance programs available to cover the costs of egg freezing. Many fertility clinics offer payment plans to make the costs more manageable. There are also fertility treatment grants from organizations like the Hope for Fertility Foundation,  Baby Quest

Foundation, the Cade Foundation. There are many grants specifically for cancer patients who want to preserve their eggs before cancer treatments. Lastly, some insurance programs cover a portion of the cost.

Are there side effects to freezing your eggs?

 

During the egg retrieval cycle, you might feel more bloated and crampy from the hormone medication. This is your body responding to medication and growing more follicles this month. During this process, there is a small risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS can occur as a result of the injectable hormones taken during the egg freezing cycle. This can cause ovaries to become swollen and painful, abdominal bloating, rapid weight gain, decreased urination, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath.

What is the recovery like?

 

Common symptoms that occur within 24 hours of egg retrieval include spotting, abdominal cramping, bloating, and constipation. You might experience vaginal soreness and cramping for a few days after the procedure. If you have severe abdominal pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, or feel faint or lightheaded, contact your clinic.

 

By: Janelle van Leeuwen BSc.

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