You may have only heard about egg freezing as a distant thing that people do, but it’s becoming more and more common for those who can afford it. (It’s pretty cost-prohibitive and not an option for a lot of people.) There’s a lot to know about the process like how it’s done, why women choose to do it, and what its success rates are. Here’s some insight into egg freezing.
Eggs go through a process to be preserved and thawed at a later date. Egg freezing is also known as oöcyte cryopreservation. As PBS explains, the process ”involves stimulating the ovaries with hormones to produce multiple eggs, retrieving the eggs from the ovaries and taking them to the lab, where they’re cooled to subzero temperatures to be thawed at a later date.”
Women have different reasons for preserving. Most women aren’t doing it to climb the corporate ladder, like many assume. A study published in Fertility and Sterility found that “a majority of women who freeze their eggs do so because they haven’t yet found the right partner.” Another survey of 740 women on Cosmopolitan found that 75% of respondents said that they want to “take the pressure off finding a partner before a certain age.” Egg freezing isn’t just for workaholic women who eventually want to be moms.
It’s a low-risk procedure. The initial part requires the woman to have her vaginal wall punctured while she’s under anesthesia. Then, the woman receives a set of hormone injections that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. This involves about five visits in ten days to the clinic where the ovaries are monitored by vaginal ultrasound. The eggs are then retrieved after a week or two of treatments.
The process could sometimes take months. In most cases, the process will only take a few weeks and will require an appointment every few days. Though sometimes it takes longer. The process requires an initial consult (including an ultrasound and a blood test), the woman needs to get her period, 10 days of fertility shots, then the process to retrieve the eggs.
There’s a risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, or OHSS. While the whole process is low-risk, there still is the chance of some complications. About 10% of patients respond negatively to treatment, resulting in ovarian hyperstimulation (OHSS). This condition can cause your ovaries to swell, meaning bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain. The symptoms will wear off, but they’re painful while they last.
The processes and procedures aren’t as painful as you’d think. You’re asleep during the vaginal wall puncturing and tiny needles are used for the hormone injection. Egg retrievals are done under sedation, so you’re likely to not even remember the procedure. This may all be very comforting for women who could be scared of the process.
It’s recommended to freeze a couple dozen eggs. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, “the chance that a single frozen egg will lead to a live birth is about 2 to 12 percent.” As a result, doctors often recommend freezing couple dozen to maximize chances of success.
It’s smart to think about freezing your eggs before age 35. Egg-freezing specialists and doctors say that the prime time to freeze your eggs is in your late 20s and early 30s. The rate of success is higher the younger that you are, but they suggest not bothering in your early to mid-twenties because you may meet someone anyways.
It’s really expensive. Egg freezing is definitely a luxury reserved for the upper and maybe middle class. The whole process will cost you generally anywhere between $10,000 – $15,000 including the visits, procedures, drugs, and yearly preservation costs. At this time no insurance companies will cover any of it.
Egg freezing doesn’t guarantee future pregnancy. One of the devastating parts of all of this is that even freezing eggs super early doesn’t guarantee pregnancy. Pregnancy rates for freezing in the early 30s are 30% while the rates for late 20s are 40%. These aren’t super high, so women have to adjust their expectations, no matter how hard it may be. It’s certainly an investment in an uncertain future, but many see the risk as worth the potential reward.
Fertility clinics aren’t required by the government to reveal egg-freezing success rates. Egg-freezing clinics don’t report their data to the Centers for Disease Control, leaving the success rates unknown. They can say whatever they want to their customers. While we’d hope they’re honest, it’s unknown.
Most women who choose to freeze their eggs report feeling empowered. According to that study in Fertility and Sterility, over half of the women who froze their eggs were left feeling empowered rather than anxious. A huge weight was lifted off of their shoulders, leaving them relieved they skipped ahead of their biological clock. They’re then able to go back into dating feeling lighter and carrying that feeling of empowerment.
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