By Emily Merrell
There’s been a lot of information out on the internet about egg freezing. It’s “easy”, it’s “quick” – but really, what actually happens during egg freezing? How quickly do people recover? Is it that easy? We’ve sat down with our friends at the Pacific Fertility Center to get the skinny on egg freezing and how it works. Learn more about it below.
SDS: Egg freezing is an outpatient experience. Can you describe what a typical egg freezing process from start to finish looks like? Additionally, how long is the recovery?
DR. LIYUN LI: The process starts with pre-cycle preparation which includes an assessment of egg count as well as some blood tests. Stimulation of egg growth usually starts on the second day of one’s menstrual cycle. This is done by administering hormone injections under the skin of the abdomen for approximately 10-14 days. Patients come in to the clinic about 4-5 times during this time.
Ultrasounds help monitor medication response and egg growth. Once the eggs are deemed ready, ovulation is triggered by the administration of the “trigger shot” 36 hours prior to the egg retrieval. The egg harvest is a quick outpatient procedure lasting about 30 minutes. The patient is asleep under sedation anesthesia. Eggs are harvested via a biopsy needle through the vaginal wall under ultrasound guidance. Recovery typically takes about one day, although symptoms of bloating may persist for up to 7-10 days.
SDS: Are there any side effects of egg freezing that one should worry about? Is there an ideal age one should consider having their eggs frozen?
LI: Side effects of hormone injections include bloating, fatigue, nausea, and mood swings. Anyone who is considering having a family in the future is a candidate for egg freezing.
SDS: Is egg freezing something that is covered by insurance? Is there any risk associated with the procedure?
LI: Egg freezing may be covered by insurance. In the Bay Area, especially, we are starting to see more companies with coverage. If you are curious about your benefits, reach out to your HR representative or your insurance company for more information.
The procedure is very safe. There is <1% chance of having bleeding with the egg harvest procedure. There is <5% risk of developing ovarian hyper stimulation.
SDS: Generally, how successful is retrieving eggs during an egg freezing process and how many eggs are typical?
LI: The number of eggs retrieved depends on an individual’s ovarian function. A thorough assessment of ovarian function will be performed prior to starting the process. At this time your physician will have a conversation with you on how many eggs they recommend freezing based on your family building goals and age. They will also be able to discuss how many eggs you may expect to freeze during a single treatment based on your ovarian function.
SDS: How long should eggs be frozen before being used?
LI: There is no “shelf life” for frozen eggs. They do not get worse in quality the longer they stay stored.
SDS: Are there any misconceptions about egg freezing you’d like to clear up?
LI: One common misconception is that a woman does not need to freeze eggs if she currently does not have any fertility problems. Age is the most important predictor of fertility. Research shows a decline in fertility with increasing age so it is advisable to consider egg freezing as an option for planning a future family.
Learn more at our upcoming SDS event on Thursday, 9/12: The Motherhood Conundrum, The Different Paths to Motherhood with Pacific Fertility Center. You can buy tickets here. We hope to see you there!