You’ve done the pondering, the research, and the preliminary math. You don’t want kids right now, but you do want them some day. You know that freezing your eggs while you’re young is a way to help keep your options open when you’re older. So how do you decide if egg freezing is right for you or whether you’re even a good candidate? What’s the next step?
When you’re considering freezing your eggs and want to explore moving forward, the first thing to do is to schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist to talk it over and get some preliminary tests done.
How should I prepare for my first egg freezing appointment?
Before you walk through the doors of the fertility clinic for the first time, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you’re fully prepared:
Understand your insurance
Most health insurance plans do not cover the cost of egg freezing, but it is always worth checking to be sure. If you find that you do have some coverage available, you want to ensure that your chosen clinic will accept your insurance. It’s worth noting that the cost of preliminary testing is often covered, as it is considered diagnostic. This can add up to a nice savings.
Make sure you’re in good health
You don’t have to be a perfect specimen to freeze your eggs, but your long-term chances of success are much better if you are at a healthy weight, don’t smoke, and have a general clean bill of health. You can go for a basic physical at your GP. A recent pap smear and a complete STI (sexually transmitted infection) screening are good things to have done before your first clinic appointment.
Look at your schedule
Freezing your eggs is not a time consuming process, but there are a series of appointments involved in a cycle that need to happen on a specific time table. You’ll want to find a window where you don’t have potential scheduling conflicts such as travel. Generally, you can count on spending about two weeks on fertility medication during the ovarian stimulation part of your cycle. Towards the end of this period you may need to go to the clinic a few times to be monitored so that they know when you’re ready for the egg retrieval process. For the retrieval itself, you should plan to take the day off work. You can get a complete overview of the process and timeline in this article.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
It’s absolutely normal to have some jitters before your appointment, so it’s a good idea to have a list of questions prepared before you meet with your doctor for the first time. Remember to bring a notebook and pen with you to jot down bullet points and answers: when there are a lot of new medical terms and information flying at you it can be a challenge to keep everything straight in your head. This list of questions should help get you off to a good start:
Am I the right age for egg freezing to make sense?
When it comes to freezing eggs to use later in life, the general consensus is that younger is better. Results have consistently shown that eggs from women in their twenties and early thirties have a much higher rate of IVF success than those of older women. With that said, some women in their early 40s are also choosing to freeze their eggs. If you are over 40, especially if you hope to have more than one child, egg freezing can still be a good option. The decline in egg quality accelerates at this point in a woman’s reproductive life, so every year can make a significant difference. As long as you and your doctor are clear about the statistical success rates for women in your age range, it can still make sense to go for it.
So is there such a thing as being too young to freeze your eggs? Using the latest techniques and technology available, it is now possible to safely store frozen eggs for up to a decade without any significant decrease in egg quality and survival rate. If you feel there is a strong likelihood that you will be ready to become pregnant in the next 10 years, now is probably the best time to freeze your eggs.
How is my ovarian reserve?
Ovarian reserve is a snapshot of the number (and quality) of viable eggs available to mature in a woman’s ovaries. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, and throughout the course of a lifetime, this number gradually diminishes. Some eggs disappear through the natural process of cell death and reabsorption, and others are lost through the process of atresia. This is the normal competition of immature egg follicles in the ovaries: about 20 follicles begin the process of maturation, but only one usually “makes it” to ovulation. The rest are reabsorbed by the body. This loss of eggs accelerates as women age, until menopause.
At the beginning of the egg freezing process, you’ll undergo tests to check your ovarian reserve. The results can help you and your doctor decide the possible urgency of freezing your eggs and will also help your doctor decide what dose of fertility medication you need. If your ovarian reserve is extremely low, you may not be a good candidate. Women with diminished ovarian reserves sometimes do not respond well to fertility medications and can struggle to find success with IVF. You can learn more about ovarian reserve in this article on follicles and IVF.
Are there any risks I should consider before freezing my eggs?
Egg freezing is a very safe process, but as with any medical procedure, there can be some side effects. For most patients, any side effects are extremely mild. Fertility medications can mimic the symptoms of PMS, with some bloating, some abdominal soreness, moodiness, sore breasts, or headaches. In very rare cases, if any of these symptoms become severe, they can be an indication of a potentially serious condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. You should talk to your doctor about possible complications with fertility medication and egg retrieval and any risk factors you may have which could affect your chances of experiencing more severe side effects. It’s also important to educate yourself on what to watch for. You can read more about the potential risks of egg freezing in this article. Avoiding jarring activity is important to prevent ovarian torsion.
How many eggs should I freeze, and how many cycles will I need?
Unfortunately, there is no magic number of frozen eggs that will guarantee that you will become pregnant when you decide to use them. However, based on your age and your ovarian reserve, your doctor will be able to help you decide how many eggs to freeze based on what makes sense for you. Generally, the older you are, the more eggs you should freeze and the more cycles you are likely to need to reach your goal. It is highly dependent on your age.
What if I don’t need all my eggs?
It’s a good idea to have a plan for what you want to do with any eggs you don’t use, as there is a cost to safely storing your eggs in a special laboratory facility. It is absolutely normal to have surplus eggs carefully disposed of by the lab, but some women would like the option to donate their extra eggs to another family who is struggling to conceive. If this is something that interests you, bring it up with your doctor. You may need to undergo some extra screening to qualify as an egg donor in order to have this option.
What is included in the cost of an egg freezing cycle, and are there other costs I should be aware of?
Understanding the cost of egg freezing and the factors which can affect that cost is important when you’re planning for your future. In most clinics, the price per cycle usually includes testing and monitoring (including ultrasounds), the egg retrieval procedure, and cryopreservation (actually freezing the eggs). However, there are other significant costs which are usually not included, because they are not provided by the clinic. Your fertility medication, anesthesia during the egg retrieval, and storage of the frozen eggs are usually billed separately by outside providers such as the pharmacy, the anesthesiologist, and the storage facility. Exactly what is covered in an egg freezing cycle can vary by clinic, so be sure you are clear in order to avoid unwelcome surprises. Freezing your eggs is an investment, but remember that some clinics offer payment and financing plans which can make it much more affordable.
Freezing your eggs is an exciting option for today’s young women, but we understand that this is a big decision. There’s a lot to think about. If you are considering your options and wondering if you can afford to freeze your eggs, we have created a free guide to paying for fertility preservation that you may find helpful. If you have more questions or are ready to schedule a consultation, please contact us. We would be delighted to help.