Egg freezing, as a way of preserving a woman’s fertility is becoming more and more commonplace among young women who wish, for various reasons, to delay motherhood or delay expanding their family until a later date
From 2009 to 2016 in America alone, the numbers increased by a whopping 2,695% and it continues to grow. But what’s the best age to do it and what’s it like?
Dria Murphy, from New York, made the decision to freeze her eggs in early 2022. She spoke to Well + Good as well as documenting her journey with her fertility specialist, Dr Catha Fischer director of Spring Fertility, to her 33,500 followers on Instagram.
Dr Fischer says that the number one barrier for women choosing the procedure is cost. Costs vary, but in America, women can expect to pay between $7,000 and $15,000
“I think women would do it younger if it was less expensive or covered. People that have coverage are freezing their eggs almost immediately. As soon as they get the job, they’re coming to talk to me. People that don’t have coverage are coming to me in their later thirties, when they feel like they have a little bit of a stash to put toward this.”
Added to these costs is the annual fee for egg storage, on top of the fees for the actual procedure. This can be around $1,000 a year. Dr Fischer says, “That’s why people aren’t freezing eggs at 21. Because what’s the purpose of that? It’s probably $10,000 out of storage.”
The average age that Dr Fischer sees is 37 years old
“At 37, you’re much more likely to come back for them in the future, whereas younger individuals will find themselves footing a larger bill for storage costs, only to not pursue IVF.”
“Should women younger than 37 do this? Absolutely. It just is a matter of: Do you have the financial means to put toward this, and is it a priority.”
The procedure itself is also gruelling, typically beginning with your period. “We can start egg freezing almost any time.” adds Dr Fischer. “But ideally, it’s the third day of your period, or the 21st day of your cycle. From that point, we decide to start usually about 10 to 12 nights or days of injections. The injections are synthetic versions of natural hormones.”
“These injections trick your body into producing more eggs in one cycle than it typically does, giving your doctor the best chance at retrieving multiple eggs at once. While small, these shots can still suck.”
“The first night’s the worst and then it gets easier. You’re taking these shots for about five nights before you come in. When you come in, we’re doing a transvaginal ultrasound.”
“That ultrasound allows your doctor to see your ovaries and count the follicles, or the tiny sacs of fluid that contain individual eggs. This paired with blood work determines the next course of action, which could include changes in injection dose or a longer (or shorter) waiting period before the next appointment. Over the course of ten to twelve days, patients usually come into the office four to five times before scheduling the egg retrieval.”
Once a woman has endured this barrage of hormones and all the tests and ultrasounds, each response is different. For Dria, despite having PCOS, her procedure resulted in 18 viable eggs.
She says, “It was really, really seamless. I remember going into the procedure, and them asking my name. I fell asleep, and I woke up and was done. I immediately FaceTimed my dad.”
Some women achieve far fewer viable eggs and therefore opt for multiple rounds of the procedure in order to retrieve as many as possible.
An open conversation around the procedure, its benefits and the reality of few eggs and what happens to them in the future is critical now, to help educate and demystify.
Dria says, “Knowledge is power and the sooner people educate themselves on the how, the why, the when, is really, really important. There’s so much false information out there, and that’s probably why I’m so passionate about talking about it.”
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