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To freeze your eggs or not to freeze your eggs? At a certain age, this question may be going around in conversations with your friends, work acquaintances, and even on your social media channels. Does anyone else get inundated with fertility clinic sponsored ads on Instagram? Whether you carry a cancer gene or know that you would like to have your own biological children down the line but aren’t in that stage of life yet, freezing your eggs can offer serious peace of mind.
“The ideal candidates for egg freezing are women 30 to 35 years old. Egg quality peaks in your late 20s and starts to deteriorate after age 35, making the success rates of the eggs lower,” says Sheeva Talebian, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and co-founder of Truly, MD. “Women over 35 should be well counseled regarding realistic odds of their eggs resulting in a healthy pregnancy.”
Dr. Talebian also suggests doing your research. The reality is that not all fertility centers are created equal. “You should focus on two aspects: Does the lab have a strong track record with both freezing and thawing the eggs? And will the medical team provide the proper attention to my care to ensure that I am safe throughout the process,” she advises. “There are some risks to the procedure, so it is important to understand what they are and to find a team that will do their best to minimize these.” Don’t pick a center based on the proximity to your home, the comforting color of the waiting room, or the deals they are offering. “We are talking about freezing your eggs and your future fertility – this is not a place to play Let’s Make a Deal,” says Dr. Talebian.
If the power of being able to plan when you conceive appeals to you, know that the decision is not one to take lightly. Below four women speak up about their decision to freeze their eggs.
“Notwithstanding the price tag – the cost ended up being around $10,000 for the medication and $15,000 for the medical fees for appointments and retrieval – egg freezing ultimately comes down to your own motivation of which the process demands. It’s all on you. After the initial coordination, which included countless conversations about my health and future health risks, it’s really on the patient to bring it all together – from ordering your medications, learning how to administer shots, timing your shots, and showing up for repeated ultrasounds and blood work.
There’s also a very probable chance that the doctor you meet in your original consultation will not be with you throughout the process. For instance, I had six ultrasounds in 12 days with five different doctors and the sixth did my retrieval. It took out an emotional connection that I had anticipated given the intimate nature of the procedure.
Three days after my retrieval, I was informed only four of the seven retrieved eggs were mature despite the goal of 10 to 12. It remains to be seen how many are BRCA1 positive/negative. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter your age, history, adherence to the process, your body decides what will happen. It’s all up to chance.”
“It was a powerful feeling to make a proactive choice and freeze my eggs. I am in prime child-bearing years, but I am also going through the severe depression and anxiety of a family member’s illness. I think that if I had been pregnant during this painful time, it would have been so unhealthy for my child. My pregnancy would be strained from the depression I am currently under and the stress of caring for a loved one.
Depending on how many eggs are retrieved, the recovery can be extremely painful. If you are younger and many eggs are retrieved, be prepared to be in severe discomfort and know that you will likely need to take more sick days than anticipated. I thought I would be able to run back into work after one day out, but it ended up being a week. Always prepare for the worst and try to schedule your IVF plan during a slow time in your life, say, between jobs, during slow work season, or not right during the peak of the holidays.”
”I’m glad that I froze my eggs. I feel it was the right decision for me given that I will not be choosing to have children until my later in life. However, I hope there will be more research on the long-term effects of the hormone medication administered during the process. I went to a renowned fertility clinic in Southern California knowing that my doctors delivered results. But I also wish I would have shopped around more and found a clinic that was smaller, as I would have benefited from a more personal touch. The whole process can be overwhelming, and at times I felt like I was a number in a clinic and clueless about things going on in my body.”
“I enjoyed the experience from start to finish. Of course, it was nerve-wrecking doing the shots, but they have easy to follow step-by-step tutorial videos. Retrieval surgery was a bit stressful, too, but you’re in a much nicer room and building than a general hospital. The experience felt very organized. However, I did experience pain, so expect to spend a few days on the couch and sign up a parent or friend to help you.
At the end of the day it is the best insurance policy you can put towards your fertility future. I think it is priceless. I may never need to use my eggs, but I feel a lot better knowing that they are there. I feel lucky that we are at a point in modern medicine where women can make these choices about their future.”