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Egg Freezing Top 10 Common Questions

1. What are the benefits to egg freezing?

Some women experience stress and anxiety regarding infertility when they plan to delay motherhood. Every woman is different – some experience difficulty achieving pregnancy while others do not, regardless of age or circumstance. Unfortunately, ovarian reserve declines with age, making the chance of fertility issues higher over time. Freezing at a younger age allows women to conceive later and also have the health benefits, which include decreased miscarriage and Down syndrome rates, of using a younger egg.

2. What’s the ideal age to freeze my eggs? When is it too late?

The optimal age to freeze eggs is 32-36, but any woman ages 30-40 should consider egg freezing if they plan to delay a family. The number of eggs a woman needs is dependent upon her age, but age is only one predictor and not every 35 year old or 40 year old are the same. Therefore, there is not necessarily an absolute upper age; although women less than and equal to 40 will have better success and studies have shown egg freezing is cost effective until age 38.

3. How do I know that I am a good candidate for egg freezing?

Healthy women less than 40 years of age with normal hormone levels are good candidates for egg freezing.

4. Will this process remove all of my eggs?

A woman is born with one to two million immature oocytes (eggs) in her ovaries. Every month, a woman’s eggs grow as a cohort , one follicle (immature egg) becomes dominant and eventually ovulates, and the remainder of (non-dominant) follicles are lost through atresia. Thus, a woman will lose the majority of her eggs from atresia and not during ovulation. By taking IVF medication, the non-dominant follicles are “rescued” and not lost as they would be during atresia, and are collected for cryopreservation through egg retrieval. This process “rescues” follicles/eggs that would have otherwise been lost.

5. How long will I be on medicine before the retrieval? Where do the injections go?

To get the ovaries ‘in sync’ for the procedure, you may be placed on birth control pills for one month. This allows your physician to control the timing of your cycle and synchronize follicle (immature egg) growth. To stimulate the ovaries, injectable medication administered with a tiny needle in the abdomen will be required for an average of 8-14 days. While on medication, monitoring via ultrasound will typically be required every day or every other day. Once stimulated follicles have developed into mature eggs, which usually occurs after two weeks, you will undergo an egg retrieval.

6. What does it feel like to go through the egg freezing process?

Most women are nervous about the injections, then pleasantly surprised at how small and simple they are. It’s a very tiny needle. During the egg retrieval you will be placed under sedation for the length of the procedure, which will take 15-30 minutes. Afterwards, you may experience bloating, spotting, and mild discomfort. Most women head back to work the next day.

7. Can I still work?

With the exception of your monitoring appointments, which will occur every day or every other day for roughly two weeks, your work life will be uninterrupted. We have several locations as well as early morning hours for women would like to schedule their monitoring appointment prior to the traditional work day. If you undergo a retrieval during the week, you will need to take off one day of work for the procedure. Weekend egg retrieval procedures are available, but precise timing of an egg retrieval is based on follicle development.

8. Can I have sex while going through this process? What happens when I am ready to get pregnant?

In order to avoid ovarian torsion (twisting of the ovary when it becomes enlarged that requires surgery to “untwist”) during an egg freezing cycle, women need to limit exercise and intercourse. You will also be extremely fertile in the days leading up to and after the egg retrieval. For these reasons, it is best to abstain from sex during an egg freezing cycle. After you freeze your eggs and down the line are ready to become pregnant, we recommend trying to conceive naturally first. If you have irregular cycles, PCOS, or thyroid issues, talk to a doctor before trying to conceive. We don’t recommend seeking the help of a fertility specialist until you have been trying for one year if the female partner is under 35, or six months if the female partner is over 35.

9. How do I start a cycle for egg freezing?

The first step towards freezing your eggs is to request an appointment for a physician consultation. During that time you will discuss your medical history and the egg freezing procedure in more depth. Should you decide to move forward, blood tests and an ultrasound are performed. The purpose of these tests is to allow your physician to tailor your stimulation protocol and counsel you about your individual success rates prior to starting medication for the egg freezing cycle.

10. What costs are involved and does insurance cover the cycle?

Unlike in years past, it is more common for health insurance to cover some if not all of an egg freezing cycle. We have had women undergo multiple egg freezing cycles, all of which have been covered by insurance. Not all women are so lucky. Every insurance plan is different, so it is best to check with your benefits department to confirm coverage. Out of pocket costs for an egg freezing cycle and medication are roughly $10,000.

Curious about what it’s like to go through the process?

Read two firsthand accounts of women who froze their eggs:
Kati: Freezing My Eggs Lifted A Huge Weight Off My Shoulders
Amanda: I Froze My Eggs

Thinking of delaying motherhood? You’re not alone.

Learn about the national research we commissioned that uncovers family planning trends among women without children ages 25-45: Top 5 Reasons Why Women Are Delaying Motherhood

Medical contribution by Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, M.D.

Dr. Hirshfeld-Cytron is board certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and has been practicing medicine since 2004. She completed her Obstetrics and Gynecology residency at the University of Chicago, and then completed her three-year fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Northwestern.

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