Egg freezing is the process of removing young healthy eggs from the ovaries and freezing them in a lab. Medically, this process is referred to as oocyte cryopreservation.
The first step of this procedure involves going through a fertility and health assessment. The health assessment is to check for STI’s. The fertility assessment is to determine the quality and quantity of eggs. Both assessments include pelvic ultrasounds and blood tests.
The reason why the health care provider may want to check the quality and quantity of eggs is to determine the number of eggs to freeze. For women who are between 37 and 40 years of age, freezing thirty eggs increases their chances of getting pregnant by 80%. Women who are under the age of 35 only need to freeze 15 eggs because their eggs are healthier and younger compared to those of women who are over 35.
The reason why older women need to freeze more eggs is that they do not have many quality eggs as younger women. However, the age factor is not the only reason. Certain conditions such as endometriosis can impact egg quality.
After your assessment, you are now ready to go to the next stage of the process. In the next stage, you may be required to take birth control pills for about a week or two to induce ovulation. After which, you will be required to take hormone injections for about 10 days to stimulate your ovaries to produce many eggs. Not all clinics require to take birth control pills during this process, but some do.
Once the eggs have matured, they are extracted using a needle which is inserted through your vaginal wall. During this process, you will be sedated to avoid pain.
Egg retrieval takes about 20 minutes and you will not need any stitches since the physician does not perform any cutting.
Once your eggs are extracted, they are frozen at below zero temperatures to preserve them.
After the procedure, you should be able to resume your normal activities in a week unless you develop complications, which is rare. However, if you start experiencing the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.
- Severe abdominal pain
- High fever
- Excessive weight gain within in 24 hours
- Difficulty urination
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
- Pleural effusion and ascites.
There are some certain risks that come with egg freezing and these risks include:
- Side-effects associated with the hormone medication. Although it is rare, injectable fertility medication can cause a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in which the ovaries swell up after egg retrieval. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Complications associated with egg retrieval. Using an aspirating need to extract the eggs can cause an infection and bleeding. It can also cause damage to the blood vessels, bladder or bowel.
- Emotional risks. When women freeze their eggs, it’s is so that they can be able to use them to get pregnant in the future. And so there is that hope that they can have children once they are settled and ready to start a family.
However, there are never guarantees and chances of success may depend on many things.
Women who choose to freeze their eggs do it for personal reasons. Others do it for medical reasons. However, it is commonly believed that women freeze their eggs for career reasons. But this claim has been disputed by some scientists.
A recent study conducted at Yale University showed that what motivates women to freeze their eggs is the lack of a steady partner. According to the study, most women who are in their late 30s have already accomplished their career goals, but the problem is that many of them are not in stable relationships or in any relationship.
The study reported that about 85% of the women who participated in the study froze their eggs because they are either:
- Working overseas
- Pursuing careers
The remaining 15% of the participants had different reasons for freezing their eggs and this included:
- They have a partner who is not interested in having children
- They have a partner who is not ready to have children
- They have a partner who is involved with many partners
- They are in a new relationship.
However, not all women are freezing their eggs for social reasons. Others do it for medical reasons, the most common being fertility preservation. Some cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy can damage a woman’s eggs. In such a situation, it advisable for a woman to freeze her eggs if she wants to have children in the future before undergoing cancer treatment.
Women who are also in the military may consider freezing their eggs because of their occupation.
Some experts cannot agree on the best age to freeze eggs. Some say that it may not be necessary for a woman who is in her mid-20s to freeze eggs because they can conceive naturally at the age of 30.
However, some experts believe that since a woman’s fertility declines as she ages, so the best age to freeze eggs is between age 27 and 34. But keep in mind that the decision to freeze eggs varies from woman to woman depending on her age, where she is at in her life, and the reasons behind her wanting to freeze her eggs.
Egg retrieval and freezing for a single cycle can cost between $10,000 and $16,000. Other costs may include storage costs and thawing costs. The cost of storing frozen eggs for 5 years is about $3,000 and the cost of thawing is about $3,000 to $6,000.
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It should be understood that usually, your insurance does not cover egg freezing. This is something you would have to pay for yourself.
Egg freezing is an ideal solution for women who are not ready to have children due to educational or career reasons.
However, although the procedure is considered to be cost-effective compared to fertility treatments and procedures, it is not exactly cheap.
Egg retrieval and freezing for a single cycle can cost you $20,000 to $50,000. So apart from preparing yourself mentally and physically, you also need to be prepared financially to pay for the full procedure.
Other than the cost factor, the only other downside with egg freezing is if you experience complications after the procedure, which is rare. Many women who undergo egg freezing do not experience any serious problems and any discomfort or pain they may experience usually subsides after a few days.