Egg freezing (also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation) has become an increasingly popular option for those who want to take family planning into their own hands. In the US alone, egg freezing increased by 2,695% between 2009 and 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That number continues to rise amid growing uncertainties around reproductive rights. And as the procedure becomes more popular, more people who have undergone the process are sharing their stories with others who are curious about what it’s like.
When New Yorker Dria Murphy decided to freeze her eggs earlier this year, she took to social media to share every step of the journey with her 33,500 followers. On this week’s episode of The Good + Good PodcastMurphy shares her experience with our host, Ella Dove, along with the fertility specialist who helped her achieve her egg freezing goals, Catha Fischer, MD, Medical Director of Spring Fertility.
Listen to the full episode here:
What it’s like to freeze your eggs *really*
It’s expensive to begin with.
According to Dr. Fischer, the main barrier for those who want to freeze their eggs is cost. While the price varies by state, one can expect to spend between $7,000 and $15,000 to freeze your eggs, he says, adding that this price keeps many people from having the procedure in their 20s.
“I think women would do it younger if it was less expensive or covered,” says Fischer. “People who have coverage freeze their eggs almost immediately. As soon as they get the job, they’ll come talk to me. People who don’t have coverage come to me in their mid-30s, when they feel like they have a little stash to invest in this.”
While the initial cost of egg freezing is prohibitive for most, what’s more of a deterrent for younger people, according to Dr. Fischer, is the annual fee for egg storage, which can cost up to $1,000 per year . “That’s why people don’t freeze eggs at 21,” he says, “because what’s the point of that? It’s probably $10,000 without storage.”
Because of this, Fischer says that 37 has become the most profitable age for people to freeze their eggs. At 37, you are much more likely to return for them in the future, while younger people will pay a higher bill for storage costs, just to not seek IVF.
“Should women under 37 do this? Absolutely,” says Dr. Fischer. “It’s simply a question of: Do you have the financial wherewithal to invest in this? Is it a priority?
There is a lot of preparation involved
Usually, the egg retrieval process begins during your period, where you will be given daily injections to increase egg production.
“We can start freezing eggs almost anytime,” adds Dr. Fischer, “but ideally, it’s the third day of your period or the 21st day of your cycle. From that point on, we decided to normally start 10 to 12 nights or days of injections. The injections are synthetic versions of natural hormones.”
These injections trick your body into producing more eggs in a cycle than it normally does, giving your doctor the best chance of retrieving multiple eggs at once. While small, these injections can still “stink,” says Dr. Fischer.
“The first night is the worst,” he says, “and then it gets easier. You’re taking these shots for about five nights before you come in. When you come in, we’ll do a transvaginal ultrasound.”
That ultrasound allows your doctor to see your ovaries and count the follicles, or the tiny fluid sacs that contain individual eggs. This, along with the blood work, determines the next course of action, which could include changes in the injection dose or a longer (or shorter) waiting period before the next appointment. Over the course of ten to twelve days, patients typically visit the office four or five times before egg retrieval is scheduled.
“Knowledge is power. There’s so much misinformation out there, which is probably why I’m so passionate about talking about it.” —Dria Murphy
The procedure (and results) are unique to each individual
The egg retrieval process varies greatly from person to person. For Murphy, the procedure was very simple. Despite her problems with polycystic ovary syndrome, a metabolic and endocrine disorder that can affect fertility. Doctors were able to successfully retrieve 20 eggs, and 18 of those eggs were viable.
“It was very, very fluid,” says Murphy. “I remember going into the proceedings and they asked my name. I fell asleep, woke up and finished. I immediately contacted my father on FaceTime.”
Fischer notes that this retrieval process is different for everyone, and sometimes a higher retrieval number is needed to find the number of viable eggs you want to freeze, which is why some people choose to do multiple rounds of egg retrieval. if you can. afford it.
“Another key point is that [us] we women are very bad at comparing ourselves to each other,” adds Dr. Fischer. “Some people would take five rounds to get to 18; what really matters is, what is your goal with these eggs? How many do you need to achieve your goals? For some women it’s five; others are 60”.
Why More Transparency Is Needed Around Egg Freezing
As egg freezing becomes more popular, having open discussions about the process becomes increasingly important to ensure that people are informed and not taken advantage of. Murphy hopes that sharing her journey into egg freezing can demystify the process for others who are considering freezing their eggs.
“Knowledge is power,” says Murphy, “and the sooner people educate themselves on the how, why, when is very, very important. There’s so much misinformation out there, and that’s probably why I’m so passionate about talking about it.”
To learn more about what it’s like to freeze your eggs, listen to the full episode of the podcast here.
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