I did something last month: Oocyte cryopreservation.
In everyday terms, I froze my eggs.
You may be thinking, “Monique, why did you decide to freeze your eggs?”
Well for starters, you’re born with all the eggs you’ll ever get in your lifetime. And over time, those eggs age with you. So as time goes on:
- The number of eggs you have left decreases
- The quality and health of your eggs go down too
There were a number of factors that went into my decision. Some included:
- A medical condition – I have endometriosis
- My life goals
- Relationship goals
- Insurance – I cannot predict the future, but it brings me peace to have this insurance for my future family planning
Let me give some insight into 2 of these.
Endometriosis is a condition that affects about 10% of women. Your endometrial tissue that’s normally found in the uterus begins growing outside of your uterus – similar to an uninvited guest that shows up to a party. This could include areas like your ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.
It’s a very painful condition that causes inflammation and could lead to ovarian tissue damage. This may lead to infertility as eggs live in follicles inside of your ovary. Therefore, your eggs need a healthy ovary to produce, mature, and finally, be released. To prevent the eggs from being damaged, women with endometriosis often consider oocyte cryopreservation.
In addition to my medical condition, a common reason women freeze their eggs is because of age.
- When you’re in your teens and 20s, the vast majority of your eggs are healthy (80-90%).
- When a woman reaches 32 years old, research shows that her chances of fertility begin to decrease gradually but more significantly.
- When you’re in your 40s, only about 10% of your eggs are healthy. It’s important to have healthy eggs because older eggs may contain abnormal chromosomes.
We know there have been miracles where women were able to give birth safely and later on in life, but this was a decision I made for myself and my health.
While freezing your eggs is a big health and financial decision to make, I want to equip you with the education to make this decision for yourself. I also want to normalize the conversation around oocyte cryopreservation: it’s an option for many women who have an illness or are delaying fertility due to non-medical reasons like career or relationship.
It’s amazing how science has given us this option! And I’m excited to share my experience with you. Here’s my journey.
What Is the Egg Freezing Process Like?
You’re probably wondering what process doctors take to freeze your eggs. And if you’ve been to an initial consultation appointment, it can feel overwhelming to be bombarded with pamphlets, papers, and information.
Let me break it down step-by-step to give you more clarity.
1. Make an appointment with a fertility doctor.
When it came to choosing a fertility doctor (AKA reproductive endocrinologist), I asked my primary care provider for their recommendations and got a referral.
Your fertility doctor will order a variety of tests to get an accurate picture of your fertility. Make sure you’re not on any hormonal birth control so results from testing come back accurate.
2. The doctor will walk you through the egg freezing process and testing.
You’ll also get blood tests done and a transvaginal ultrasound. The transvaginal ultrasound is where the doctor will use a probe to examine your ovary and follicles.
3. Based on your results, the doctor predicts the number of eggs they believe they’ll collect from your ovaries.
The science behind everything can be confusing, so be sure you don’t hold back – ask as many questions you can think of. It’s so important to advocate for your health. You can also consider getting a second opinion.
4. Hormone Injections
The doctor will prescribe hormone injections that will need to be administered once you’re ovulating. You may have to go into the clinic every day for at least a couple of weeks so the doctor can monitor you.
During this time, they recommend no intense workouts, sex, or alcohol. Then, when your follicles are just right, the doctor will advise you to take the trigger shot.
Exactly 36 hours after you take the trigger shot is the best time to go in for surgery. While you’re under anesthesia, doctors will use a probe to find follicles and suck them out. The total process takes about 10-20 minutes. Pretty fast compared to the preparation that comes beforehand!
The follicles are passed to a lab where an embryologist will look at them under a microscope and place them in a specialized liquid solution to keep them alive
The mature follicles contain more than just egg cells, so the embryologist will strip away everything until all that’s left is the egg.
The eggs are then dipped into liquid nitrogen so they vitrify (aka freeze quickly). This is a special technique that prevents ice crystals from forming and destroying your eggs.
The surgery is an outpatient procedure, so you’ll be monitored for about an hour before you can go home. Your doctor will let you know how many eggs they were able to freeze soon after the procedure is over. Be sure you have a family member or friend come with you since you won’t be able to drive home.
6. Rest and Recovery
You’ll go home and should give yourself adequate days for recovery.
The total process from appointment to surgery took me less than 14 days, but I needed another two weeks for recovery.
The average period of time it takes a woman to go from appointment to surgery is 14-21 days. The average time for recovery is 7 days. Take things slow during recovery. You’ll have soreness and cramping after surgery. Be sure to contact the clinic if you’re experiencing severe pain.
What Was My Egg Freezing Process Like?
The egg freezing process for everyone is different. Here are some things I experienced.
- I gained weight during the process, but most of the weight came off two weeks after surgery.
- While everyone reacts to the hormone therapy differently, I had fairly mild side effects. My main side effect from hormone therapy was exhaustion. I needed several naps a day, and I also struggled to get my work done.
- The egg retrieval process was fast and easy.
- Due to my endometriosis, I had a pain crisis after the eggs were retrieved. This was in addition to the normal pain most experience after this surgery. This was the worst part of the entire experience for me.
The pain was severe. I woke up from severe cramping 3-4 times a night, and I broke out in sweats. I also experienced extreme nausea, and it was difficult for me to get the level of treatment that I required to manage it. Research shows that many health care providers operate under the misconception that Black people have a higher threshold for pain than people of other races. Refer to my post on “Racism in Health Care.”
I was evaluated by a Reproductive Endocrinology Fellow at the Reproductive Center at 8 am on a Saturday. She performed an ultrasound, did a physical exam, and confirmed my suspicion that I was experiencing a crisis secondary to a flair in my endometriosis.
As I was sitting there, hunched over, clasping on to my heating pad for any modicum of relief it could provide, she told me that if the current pain medications I was prescribed were not working, there wasn’t anything else she could do for me. She said I should just do whatever I needed to do to make myself comfortable and to wait for the pain to resolve itself. Then she just left. She left knowing my pain was unresolved. She left knowing I had already been doing everything I could to keep myself comfortable, and it wasn’t sufficient.
Depending on the setting, Black people are at least 22% less likely to receive appropriate treatment for pain than White people. Some sources report disparities in pain management greater than 40% for Blacks compared to Whites. Even when that Black person is someone like me, who has two doctorate degrees and is a Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Scientist, and Professor.
Ultimately, I used the online patient portal to ensure that my communication would become a permanent part of my medical record and to increase the likelihood that I would be seen and heard. Here’s what I wrote on the patient portal:
- I communicated my awareness of the misperception among many health care professionals that Black people can and should tolerate higher levels of discomfort than people of other races.
- I stressed the inappropriateness of leaving my pain untreated.
A lovely and phenomenal Reproductive Endocrinology attending stepped up and stepped in. She got me an appointment with pain management and we were finally able to get my pain levels down low enough that I could sleep through the night.
The egg freezing process is different for everyone, so take the time to talk with your doctor. I can’t stress this enough – ask any questions you may have. Also, remember, to advocate for yourself. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. If you have a provider who isn’t treating you with the level of respect you deserve, say something about it.
How Much Does Egg Freezing Cost?
Sadly cost is a big barrier for women who are thinking of freezing their eggs.
I spent almost $10,000 out of pocket between the cost of the:
- Storing the eggs
- Medications (Hormone injections)
For some women, it’s even more expensive. I wish insurance covered egg freezing to make it more accessible for more women who want to have a family but aren’t ready for kids right away.
There are some clinics that offer bundle pricing. For example, you can go through four cycles of egg freezing to get 20 eggs (since the doctor may only retrieve five to ten eggs during the first cycle). Some companies like Apple and Facebook also cover the costs of egg freezing for their employees.
So, keep this in mind when you’re weighing the financial cost of egg freezing.
Would I Recommend Freezing Your Eggs?
While I can’t give specific medical advice for your situation, overall I’m VERY glad that I did it.
I hope my experience can shed some light on this process. Stay tuned for a post on my Instagram talking more about my experience.
If you have any other questions, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an Instagram message! I’d love to connect with you.
3 thoughts on “Are You Considering Freezing Your Eggs? This Was My Experience”
Thank you for sharing!
I’ve been considering freezing my eggs but have been feeling very unsure due to the cost involved, the injections, possible pain, etc. Thank you so much for this very honest account of your experience!
Even with the difficulties I faced, I still highly recommend the procedure. Having this “insurance” plan has relieved a level of stress I didn’t even realize I was experiencing.