What Nobody Tells You About Freezing Your Eggs, According To Women Who’ve Done It
If you want kids, but not yet or are not sure, some women see freezing their eggs, aka fertility preservation or oocyte cryopreservation, as a security blanket of sorts. The process has its benefits, especially if one’s not in a having-a-child mindset at the moment. Freezing their eggs can provide women with the option of having a baby (or more) down the line.
“As fertility MDs, girlfriends, and exercise enthusiasts, we have chatted with patients, friends, and ladies we meet on the shower line in the locker room about egg freezing — what they know, what they want to know, and what they wish they knew,” Dr. Jaime Knopman, co-founder of Truly, MD and Director of Fertility Preservation at CCRM New York, tells Bustle. “Hands down, this is the question that we are asked the most: ‘Will the eggs that I freeze today be good enough to make a baby in X number of years?‘ And, unfortunately, despite everything that we can do, answering this question accurately is not one of them. There is no way for any fertility doctor to predict whether the eggs that you make today will have what it takes to make healthy embryos in the future. Although we use factors such as age, follicle count, and hormone levels to guide us in guiding you, there is nothing out there that can answer your question definitively. However, when all else fails, look at your birth date. Simply stated, age trumps everything. The younger are when you freeze, the more eggs you will get and the better your chances are in the future.”
However, not all Millennials and women over the age of 40 are aware that the rate of conceiving a baby naturally has to do with age. Healthline recently released a fertility survey — the findings were based on a national sample of 1,214 Americans, age 18+, recruited from SurveyMonkey’s Contribute panel. The survey was conducted from March 30-April 2, 2017. It revealed that only 32 percent of Millennials are aware that 50 percent of people over the age of 35 will need medical intervention to have a baby, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be successful. Those over the age of 40 were not aware of the difficulty of conception in their age range, either — 11 percent guessed accurately that the vast majority in their age group, 90 percent, will need support. Healthline’s survey also found that over 53 percent of Millennial women said they would freeze their eggs.
Below, women who have gotten their eggs frozen reveal the one thing they wish they knew before doing so. While you may hear that some women experience mood swings from all the hormones, other women have other surprising side effects. As much prep as you and your doctor do, there’s bound to be something that comes up that you weren’t ready for, and these women want you to be prepared and in the know.
Amanda Bradford, Founder & CEO Of The League, 32
“The experience is quite emotionally draining and reflective — partly because of the huge syringes of hormones you’re injecting yourself with daily for two weeks, but also because you’re asked to grapple with crazy scenarios, like ‘Who would you give your eggs to if you were to die?’ — questions I would have never thought about before walking into the office. Going under for the actual removal was pretty crazy, too, as you get foggy and start speaking nonsense, wake up speaking nonsense, and, after a few hours, it’s over and your eggs are removed and already out of sight! I decided to go through with the treatment when I decided I wanted to invest in time — I wanted more time to make one of the most important decisions in my life and not to have fears of infertility creep in and potentially sway my decision-making. While the experience was intense, the peace of mind I got afterwards made up for it, hands down. Not only did I get peace of mind, I got time to reflect and think about the enormous decision of building a family with a partner and what I wanted that experience to be like in the future.”
“I am really open about my experiences with egg freezing and have recommended it to other young women. For me, the biggest thing I wish I had known is how tough it would be emotionally. The physical part was fine for me. Sure, I felt bloated and uncomfortable — it was like a bad period. Emotionally, though, I was a bit of a wreck. I tend to have strong reactions to hormones in particular, so being pumped up with an excess was hard — I cried a lot during this process. Little things would make me cry, and I had a total breakdown when I thought the whole process wasn’t going to work and I was only going to get a few eggs. I remember hysterically crying in my parking spot at work, feeling frustrated and upset. Even at the time, I knew my reactions were really heightened, but I couldn’t help it — the tears flowed so easily! That said, despite how hard it was mentally, I would do it again because, ultimately, it’s a short amount of time to protect your fertility.”
“Mistakenly, I was under the impression that I needed to remove my IUD for this procedure. My concern was that it would affect egg count/ovulation. If you have an IUD, you know that removal and insertion can be quite a headache. However, my doctor assured me that I did not need to do so. Egg freezing is a great option, and if you’re thinking about it, I would encourage you to do it. Leave alone everyone else’s story and think about your own. Hopefully, women can start to feel that they can be open about the challenges and expectations they face around fertility, and more and more women will start to see that it’s a great option to consider — especially if you have access to it and especially as technology gets more advanced. It’s not a silver bullet, but an insurance policy. That said, it’s not the science that will stop us, but the story we tell ourselves about it.”
“Although I was warned, the hormones really got to me — in a good way and in a bad way. I felt absolutely crazy with all the mood swings! (My poor friends and family!) But the hormones also made me want to have sex ALL THE TIME. So, my lucky boyfriend! I definitely don’t regret doing it, but just be prepared to feel crazy for a while!”
“If you want to stress yourself even more during this grueling process that is composed of: time management, mixing potions, and sticking yourself with needles… then add travel to the mix. It is a great experience to go to the airport with vials of clear liquid in a cooler and 50 billion needles. Some airports are totally used to it, but I would recommend having a doctor’s note and giving yourself more than ample time to get searched and felt up by security. I decided giving myself a shot wouldn’t be so bad. I hate flying, I hate packing, and I hate shots… so let’s combine them all together over Thanksgiving with the family. In 2015, I did just that. I started in Los Angeles with my pre-work and popping hormones and a round of shots, then flew to Chicago for Thanksgiving and more doctors and more shots to Minnesota to see Dr. Paul Kuneck, the founder of the Center for Reproductive Medicine, aka the Fertility Guru, for more shots and tests and to do the deed — get my eggs taken out of me and put on ice. Also, this is a hella costly procedure. Ask your doctor’s office, as there are less expensive options to get the drugs you need. Call up a slew of compounding pharmacies, too, and ask if you can use generic options. Set an alarm on your cell phone, your friend’s cell phone, your parents’ cell phones, and your watch… do not be late for your shot. Don’t beat yourself up if you only have three viable eggs or 32. It is out of your control. Just be grateful that this is an option for you to do.”
“I froze my eggs at 34. When I was 39, I tried to thaw those eggs out and use them. NONE of them thawed. It was a huge disappointment, and the statistics of live births from frozen eggs is not very good. It is getting better, but not very good. I am sure I was told that, but I wish I had really processed it. I have a daughter and was able to get pregnant naturally, but she has a genetic disease and we needed to do IVF to make sure we didn’t pass it down. It was just heartbreaking. I also only got seven eggs and you really need to have a large number — so if you don’t get a lot, you should do it again if you’re going to do it.”
“I froze my eggs when I was 31, mostly to try to help my sister. I donated half to her and froze half. It was not successful for her and she is still childless. I have been in two serious relationships since, but neither led to marriage and a family, and I am still single, so praising the Lord I did this! I’m definitely not banking on this, though, and it sometimes makes me feel a little better that I have back-up plan, but there is definitely no guarantee of it working. Also, I could have never afforded it if it was not for my sister and brother-in-law, who paid for it. It was their way of thanking me and putting my sister’s mind at ease that I would not have to go through the same heartbreak she (still) faces every day. They are getting stronger every day, but it is a process. Also, I had to do it twice to get to the retrieval. I went in the morning and I had plenty, and my levels looked good. Then, when they were supposed to call me to tell me to do the trigger shot [the last shot], my levels dropped and the whole cycle was, for lack of better terminology, shot to hell. It is an emotional roller coaster. The doctors said it was a fluke, but no one ever told us that this was a possibility. They said ‘this never happens’ — well, it did. We waited about four to five months before trying again, because my sister and her husband still wanted a baby and I still wanted to help and felt incomplete and like I would have regrets. The second was successful in the retrieval, but who knows what will happen down the road…”
Andi, Then-Mid 30s
“I froze my eggs in my mid-30s, but have yet to try to use them (still single, would rather raise a child with a partner, not financially steady right now, etc.). I also have so many friends who spent thousands freezing their eggs when they were in their early and mid-30s, only to later learn they didn’t take. Then, they’d end up getting pregnant naturally anyway, when they were in their late 30s and early 40s. So, in retrospect, I’d say save the time and money and invest it in therapy, making yourself more date-able instead! And then, just try to have a baby the good old-fashioned way!”
Valerie Landis Founder Of Eggsperience.com & Host Of Eggology Club Podcast, 33 & 35
“After freezing my eggs and going through the emotional journey of egg freezing myself, I founded the educational website Eggsperience.com to help learn the tips and trick of freezing. Later, I began hosting the Eggology Club podcast to tell others journeys of egg freezing. My first egg freezing cycle was in November 2015 when I was 33 years old. I froze my eggs for a second time at 35 years old, exactly two years later. The key things that I wish I would have known when I froze my eggs is that one cycle is probably not enough. I would have saved my leftover hormones instead of giving them away and done another round soon after, for cost-saving benefits. I was extremely blessed that my first egg freezing cycle, I had insurance that covered my pharmacy medication drugs at 90 percent. I even qualified for some manufacturing rebates with co-pay insurance coverage.
This second time around, I am not so lucky. I am paying out of pocket/cash pay for my hormones. Just for half of my meds, I have already paid out-of-pocket $2,300 for hormones and that was after major price shopping 2-3 pharmacies. The additional week of hormones cost me over $1,900. If I had known my insurance had such a good plan for fertility treatments last time, I would have done another cycle right away. Now, two years later, the same procedure is costing $5,000 more than my previous egg freezing cycle in 2015. I live in a fertility insurance-mandated state (Illinois). However, I am hearing from the nurses how insurance has changed with the Affordable Care Act and is now not covering fertility as well as before. If I had known all these changes would come into effect, I would have taken advantage of more cycles while I was covered. Another thought would have been to ask my clinic for multiple packaged deals to freeze my eggs multiple times for a reduced rate.”
What You Should Expect When Freezing Your Eggs
Freezing your eggs may sound like a viable option, but there are a few key things to keep in mind. “When starting the journey of freezing eggs, it’s important for a women to think about how many children she wants, and when they are looking to start a family,” Dr. Daniel Shapiro, M.D. and Reproductive Endocrinologist at Prelude Fertility. “The later a woman starts her family, the fewer children she is bound to have. People who want three kids but don’t plan to start until they are 36 years old will probably not reach their desired family size unless they froze their eggs at a reasonably young age. Egg freezing should be seen as an investment in your future family. Women should also think about how committed they are to this process. It involves about two weeks of injections and a minor surgical procedure to collect the eggs, as well as multiple visits to the doctor and taking medication. It’s important for a woman to really consider if this is something that she wants.”
So what’s the best thing to do next if you’re considering freezing your eggs? “If it’s been on your mind, go and let it out (by talking to your GYN or a fertility MD),” says Dr. Knopman. “While you may chose not to do it, you will not regret not giving yourself that choice. Although you may still play the ‘should-a, would-a, could-a game’ when you look back on this decision in one, five, or 10 years, you will appreciate that YOU considered all of the options and made an educated decision!”
Freezing your eggs is your decision to make. But being educated about the process is key, and then you can go from there.