Egg freezing is also known as fertility preservation. Fertility preservation can be an option for women who aren’t ready for a baby right now but would like to have children in the future. You can do it for elective reasons or for medical reasons.
The following are some of the key things to know about freezing your eggs.
As was touched on, there are two frequent reasons a woman might decide to freeze her eggs. One reason falls into the category of elective. Some women would like to wait to start a family, and they want to have options available to them when they’re ready.
The other situation is medical in nature. If you were going to undergo chemotherapy, for example, which could be toxic to your eggs or ovaries, you might decide to freeze your eggs before you begin.
There’s a relatively new process used called vitrification or flash freezing, which has increased the success rate for women who want to get pregnant using frozen eggs. It’s similar as far as the success rate to in-vitro fertilization.
The most important factor as to whether or not you’ll be able to successfully use frozen eggs for pregnancy is the age at which you freeze them. The ideal age is 35 and younger, but some women do choose to freeze their eggs at an older age than that.
What is the Process?
When you freeze your eggs, they’re harvested unfertilized from your ovaries and then stored to be used later. Frozen eggs can be thawed, combined with sperm, and then implanted in your uterus, which is known as in vitro fertilization.
Some of the steps in the process can include:
You would choose a fertility clinic that’s experienced in egg freezing. Someone who’s an expert in this area is often known as a reproductive endocrinologist.
Before you start the process to freeze your eggs, you’ll likely go through a series of blood tests. These can include ovarian reserve testing, which lets your doctor know more about the quality and quantity of your eggs. The results from this test can help predict whether or not your ovaries will respond well to fertility medicine. You might also do an ultrasound of your ovaries, and you’ll be screened for some infectious diseases.
After the screening process, the next step is ovarian stimulation. You take hormones that will stimulate your eggs to produce multiple eggs. Normally, your ovaries produce a single egg each month. You’ll be monitored while you’re taking ovarian stimulating medicines.
Egg retrieval is something that’s done while you’re sedated in your doctor’s office. A suction device is used with a needle to remove eggs from the follicle. The more eggs that are retrieved, the better the chances of birth.
Once unfertilized eggs are harvested, they’re chilled at temperatures below zero, which preserves them to be used in the future.
When you’re ready to use your eggs, they’re thawed and fertilized with sperm. Then, the fertilized egg can be implanted in your uterus or a gestational carrier’s uterus.
Sometimes an insurance plan might cover the costs of egg freezing, but that’s pretty rare, and you’ll probably have to pay for it out-of-pocket. The entire procedure usually costs anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000, but that doesn’t include annual storage or the follow-up to use the frozen eggs.
Some employers have started to cover the cost of egg freezing as an employee benefit.
What to Consider Before Freezing Your Eggs
If you are thinking about it, there’s a lot to know and both pros and cons of freezing your eggs.
First, freezing your eggs doesn’t guarantee you’re going to be able to have a child.
There are a lot of variables that will factor in. For example, not all of your eggs are going to be viable, and not all the eggs will survive the warming process.
It can also be an intense process to go through egg retrieval.
You can also freeze your embryos if that’s what you think is best for you. Freezing your eggs gives you more options though.
If you’re overwhelmed about the process or the decision, you can start talking to medical professionals now who can give you more information and go into the side effects, the pros, and the cons. It’s a personal decision and while it’s not an automatic insurance policy, for some women it is the right choice.