Egg freezing (aka mature oocyte cryopreservation) has become an increasingly popular option for those who want to take family planning into their own hands. In the U.S. alone, egg freezing increased by 2,695 percent from 2009 to 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That number continues to rise amidst growing uncertainties surrounding reproductive rights. And as the procedure becomes more popular, more people who’ve undergone the process are sharing their stories with others 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. In this week’s episode of The Well+Good Podcast, Murphy shares her experience with our host, Ella Dove, alongside 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:
- Catha Fischer, OB-GYN, Catha Fischer is a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist. Fischer serves as the medical director for Spring Fertility New York.
What freezing your eggs is *really* like
It’s expensive, for starters
According to Dr. Fischer, the number-one barrier for those wanting to freeze their eggs is cost. While price varies across states, one can expect to spend anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000 to freeze their eggs, she says, adding that this price tag keeps many people from pursuing the procedure in their 20s.
“I think women would do it younger if it was less expensive or covered,” says Fischer. “People that have coverage are freezing their eggs almost immediately. As soon as they get the job, they're coming to talk to me. People that don't have coverage are coming to me in their later thirties, when they feel like they have a little bit of a stash to put toward this.”
While the upfront 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 as much as $1,000 per year. “That’s why people aren't freezing eggs at 21,” she says, “because what’s the purpose of that? It's probably $10,000 out of storage.”
Because of this, Fischer says that 37 has become the most cost-effective age for people to freeze their eggs. At 37, you’re much more likely to come back for them in the future, whereas younger individuals will find themselves footing a larger bill for storage costs, only to not pursue IVF.
“Should women younger than 37 do this? Absolutely,” says Dr. Fischer. “It just is a matter of: Do you have the financial means to put toward this, and is it a priority.”
There’s a lot of preparation involved
Typically, the egg extraction process begins during your period, wherein you’ll administer daily injections to increase egg production.
“We can start egg freezing almost any time,” adds Dr. Fischer, “but ideally, it's the third day of your period, or the 21st day of your cycle. From that point, we decide to start usually about 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 one cycle than it typically does, giving your doctor the best chance at retrieving multiple eggs at once. While small, these shots can still “suck,” says Dr. Fischer.
“The first night’s the worst,” she says, “and then it gets easier. You’re taking these shots for about five nights before you come in. When you come in, we’re doing a transvaginal ultrasound.”
That ultrasound allows your doctor to see your ovaries and count the follicles, or the tiny sacs of fluid that contain individual eggs. This paired with blood work determines the next course of action, which could include changes in injection dose or a longer (or shorter) waiting period before the next appointment. Over the course of ten to twelve days, patients usually come into the office four to five times before scheduling the egg retrieval.
"Knowledge is power. There’s so much false information out there, and that’s probably why I’m so passionate about talking about it." —Dria Murphy
The procedure (and results) are unique to every individual
The egg extraction process varies greatly from person to person. For Murphy, the procedure was a painless breeze. Despite her struggles with PCOS a metabolic and endocrine disorder that can effect fertility. Doctors were able to successfully extract 20 eggs, and 18 of those eggs were viable.
“It was really, really seamless,” says Murphy. “I remember going into the procedure, and them asking my name. I fell asleep, and I woke up and was done. I immediately FaceTimed my dad.”
Fischer points out that this extraction process is different for everyone, and sometimes a higher extraction number is necessary in order to find the amount of viable eggs you want to freeze—which is why some people opt to do multiple rounds of egg retrievals if they can afford it.
“Another key point is that [us] women are really bad at comparing ourselves to each other,” adds Dr. Fischer. “Some people, it would take them five rounds to get to 18; what really matters is, what's your goal from these eggs? How many do you need to achieve your goals? For some women that's five; others, it's 60.”
Why there’s a need for more transparency around egg freezing
As egg freezing becomes more popular, holding open discussions about the process becomes more and more important to ensure people are informed and not being taken advantage of. Murphy hopes that sharing her journey in egg freezing can demystify the process for other those who are considering freezing their eggs.
“Knowledge is power,” says Murphy, “and the sooner people educate themselves on the how, the why, the when, is really, really important. There’s so much false information 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 podcast episode here.
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