I froze my eggs at 28-years-old. I knew no one in my real-life who had frozen their eggs and I definitely didn’t hear about anyone doing it in their 20s. I wanted to freeze my eggs when I was 26 but was discouraged by people around me who had concerns about the hormones I would have to take and they all said I was too young to be considering it.
Then the pandemic happened.
During the height of covid, I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted my life to look like and I knew I would have to take action and make decisions based on what was best for me.
I realized I did want to have kids one day, but not anytime soon and I have so much I want to do in my life before someone calls me “mom.”
I did a ton of research before I started the process. I joined every Facebook group and listened to an endless amount of podcasts about egg freezing. I learned a lot but the information (very) rarely came from women who looked like me.
I tell everyone in my life that freezing my eggs was one of the best and smartest decisions I’ve ever made and I’m so happy I did it in my late-20s. I give advice, tips, and resources to so many of my friends who are interested in freezing their eggs, that I feel like it’s my duty to share what I’ve learned and experienced with more young women.
In this blog post, I’m going to explain my personal egg freezing journey, a bit about how I paid for it, the side effects I experienced, and what you should consider before freezing your eggs.
I really want more young women to be educated and informed about their fertility and the options available to them. Let me know if you find this post helpful!
What is egg freezing?
Elective egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, is the process of retrieving a woman’s eggs, freezing them, and storing them for future use. Some women do this out of necessity if they are about to start cancer treatment.
But many other women and those who were born female are doing it to preserve their fertility and delay parenthood. The process involves hormone injections to stimulate your ovaries, a short egg retrieval procedure done under anesthesia, and freezing the eggs until a woman is ready to use them for in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Basically, egg freezing is THE FIRST STEP OF IVF. For me, it was a three-month process from when I contacted my fertility clinic to when I had my retrieval.
Why I ultimately decided to freeze my eggs
So why did I decide to freeze my eggs after I initially decided not to?
I got to talking to my older cousin and she shared with me her desire to become a mother but how she missed her opportunity to have biological children because she waited too long. She was approaching her mid-40s and she said if she had known about egg freezing when she was younger, she would have definitely done it. She said one of her biggest regrets was not being informed or told about when fertility starts to decline.
Her story inspired me to take action and freeze my eggs while I was still in my prime reproductive years. I believe more people regret not taking action more than they regret taking action.
Fortunately, my job (I’m a journalist at The Washington Post) started offering supplemental fertility insurance benefits in 2019 that made it possible for me to afford the cost of freezing my eggs (thank goodness!).
- As long as you are still ovulating and have viable eggs, you can freeze your eggs. BUT egg quality and quantity decrease as you age. The younger you freeze your eggs, the better quality your eggs are more likely to be. There’s a bunch of different data and information regarding egg freezing and age but it’s generally recommended to do it before you reach 40-years-old and highly recommended to do it before you reach 35-years-old.
My doctor told me during my initial consultation on Zoom that between 28 to 32-years-old is the best age to freeze your eggs before you start to see a slight fertility decline. When he said this, it honestly surprised me but I’m starting to see more and more doctors talking about the benefits of freezing your eggs when you are younger!
How I paid for egg freezing
EGG FREEZING IS EXPENSIVE there’s no way to sugarcoat it. The cost is highly dependent on where you are located, the amount (dosage) of medications you’ll need, and whether the clinic you go to is a private, university/hospital affiliated, or a specialty egg freezing only facility.
According to CNY Fertility, the national average cost is $15,000. I’ve seen ranges from $5,000 up to $18,000. Typically, the egg freezing itself is a few thousand dollars but medications are where things can skyrocket. Luckily, there’s a TON of ways to pay for egg freezing including discount programs, grants, donor cycle programs, employer benefits, financing lenders, and ways to shop around for more affordable medications.
I used Progyny health insurance through my Aetna benefits to cover the expenses of my egg freezing. With Progyny, approximately 90% of the total cost, which included testing, doctor visits, ultrasounds, and the procedure itself, was covered. However, I did have to pay a percentage of the medication costs out-of-pocket.
If you go through Progyny, Carrot, or another fertility insurance provider, I would HIGHLY recommend reaching your deductible before starting the process to minimize the amount of money you need to pay. Also, if you receive an infertility diagnosis, more and more states are being required to provide you with fertility health insurance to pay for the costs.
I’m so grateful that I was able to use insurance because not thinking about the financial aspect made the process much more manageable and allowed me to focus on the process itself without the added stress of overwhelming costs.
Preparing for the Egg Freezing Process
Some people don’t do anything differently before starting the egg freezing process, while others follow a specific diet and make certain lifestyle changes. Whatever you choose, one of the most important things to do is to quit smoking (if you do this) and to stop hormonal birth control (the pill, patch, etc) at least a couple months prior to beginning the process. IUDs are fine to remain in your body.
Vitamins, supplements and diet
Again, you don’t have to do anything special before egg freezing but for me, it was important that I did everything in my control to get the best possible outcome.
Before I started the process, I did the 21-day Daniel Fast which was a vegan diet that didn’t include any processed foods, alcohol or added/refined sugar. It gave my body a total reset and I felt great. When I started the process, I tried to continue eating healthy but I added back in meat and eggs for protein.
Every fertility specialist is different and some recommend a combination of vitamins and supplements for women who are considering egg freezing. This may include CoQ10, DHEA, and Vitamin D, which are all discussed in the book, “It Starts with the Egg.” These supplements are believed to support egg quality and overall reproductive health.
Right before I began, my nurse told me to take a good quality prenatal vitamin with DHEA and folate (folic acid). I went through three brands but ultimately loved taking Thorne’s.
A diet with a majority of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, omega fatty acids, and whole grains was also recommended to me by my nurse. She also told me to reduce caffeine during the process to one cup of coffee a day and to reduce my alcohol intake but the occasional.
Some specific foods women can eat while preparing for egg freezing as recommended by fertility dietitian Stefanie Valakas include:
- Leafy greens such as spinach and kale, which are high in folate and B vitamins is essential for healthy egg development.
- Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are packed with antioxidants and can protect eggs from damage caused by free radicals.
- Salmon and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids and support hormone production.
- Almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds, also contain fatty acids and protein and can possibly help regulate hormone levels.
Consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist
My insurance Progyny had a list of in-network clinics I could choose from to do my egg freezing with. I contacted two clinics based on recommendations from a couple of my co-workers and chose CCRM in Northern Virginia.
I got to choose the doctor to work with but generally, because you will have so many appointments, you’ll likely see more than one doctor during the process.
I had a consultation over Zoom with a reproductive endocrinologist. I filled out some paperwork online beforehand and during the consultation, my doctor spoke in-depth about the process and my medical history. He answered all my medical concerns and questions too.
The first appointment: Hormone testing and ultrasound
Before undergoing the process of egg freezing, baseline testing is required. This happens on the second or third day of your menstrual cycle. You will call the clinic the day your period comes and you will usually go in for your appointment the next day.
One key component of the baseline testing is a vaginal ultrasound, which allows the doctor to assess the health and quantity of your egg follicles. This took about five minutes for me.
Next, blood tests will be done to measure hormone levels. The main hormones tested for in this baseline evaluation include follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen, and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH).
These hormones each play a role in the growth and maturation of eggs, and their levels can provide insight into a woman’s ovarian reserve and overall reproductive health.
Through these baseline tests, your doctor will determine the best course of action for egg freezing and assess the likelihood of a successful outcome. I also did a genetic screening test to see if I was a carrier for any genetic illnesses.
Even if you are on the fence about freezing your eggs, I HIGHLY recommend doing this testing. Knowledge really is power when it comes to your fertility.
What happens during egg freezing
The whole point of egg freezing is to withdraw as many eggs as possible to save for future use. If you don’t get pregnant, you’ll ovulate and will lose these eggs FOREVER.
So during the process, you’ll do several days of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries and produce multiple eggs.
The next step involves monitoring the eggs’ development through ultrasounds and blood tests to determine the best time for extraction. The typical timeline for egg freezing is 8-14 days. So it’s pretty quick!
After I got my results back from my baseline testing, I was put on the birth control pill for two weeks when my period started. The reason why you’re put on birth control is to suppress your hormones and to schedule the process. Berry Fertility has a great explanation for why doctors prescribe this.
After I got the green light to move forward following the birth control, I started the medications.
- When you start the medications, you will need to stop exercising because you could have ovarian torsion if you do. Read below in the side effects section where this is explained.
A few days prior to starting I attended a virtual IVF class that my clinic was hosting where I learned all about how to inject the hormonal medications I would be taking.
Typically you will be prescribed two to three fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries. The first medication is often a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist or antagonist, which helps suppress the body’s natural menstrual cycle to prevent the release of eggs too early. I took this medication in the morning.
The second medication commonly used is follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which is injected to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs. FSH is essential for the development of the follicles that contain the eggs. I took this medication in the evening.
These medications are carefully prescribed and MUST BE REFRIGERATED. You will have to inject the medications with a small needle. It was recommended to me by my nurse to move the injection site each time to prevent swelling. I did all of mine in my lower stomach.
The first time I took the medications, I had a massive headache almost immediately. This didn’t continue to happen and I felt fine the next day.
It’s recommended to take the medication around the same time every day. There is a window though and I wasn’t perfect when doing this. Some days I had to turn off my camera and inject the medications during a Zoom meeting at work lol.
Lots of appointments
You can expect to have several ultrasound appointments to monitor the development of your eggs. They are nearly every day or every other day as you start to get deeper into the process.
These appointments are essential to ensure that your eggs are growing in size and maturing properly. Your fertility doctor will use the ultrasound images to track the progress of your eggs and make any necessary adjustments to your medication dosage.
I’d recommend not scheduling any out-of-town trips while you are undergoing treatment.
You will also be in regular contact with your fertility nurse.
Trigger Shot to Prepare Eggs for Retrieval
When the majority of your eggs have grown to a mature size, you will be told to take the trigger shot.
Also known as the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) injection, it’s a shot you give yourself about 36 hours before the eggs are scheduled to be retrieved. Its purpose is to stimulate the final maturation of the eggs within the ovaries.
It is extremely important to take the trigger shot on time when your nurse tells you to because the timing is critical for the success of the whole process.
Additionally, the trigger shot helps to coordinate the timing of the egg retrieval procedure with the fertility clinic’s schedule.
Egg Retrieval Surgery
The day after I took the trigger shot I had my final ultrasound appointment and took a covid test. Then the next day I had my egg retrieval procedure.
I arrived at the clinic around 9 am and checked in at the front desk. You will need someone to drive you home.
I was taken to a pre-op room where I changed into a gown and spoke with the nurse and anestiologist. Then before I knew it I was wheeled into the operating room.
During the procedure, a long, thin needle is used to extract eggs from a woman’s ovaries to freeze them for future use.
You are typically under sedation or anesthesia and you won’t feel anything. The whole process takes about 20-30 minutes.
The extracted eggs are then immediately examined and prepared for freezing. When you wake up the embryologist tells you how many eggs were retrieved. Then later that night or the next day, you’ll get a call from the clinic or lab telling you how many of those eggs were mature.
Immature eggs are either discarded or sometimes kept to see if they will grow overnight (but not all clinics do this).
I haven’t ever widely shared my results because I never wanted to come off as bragging or for people to compare themselves to me. But since I’m sharing my journey now, I will say I got over 40 eggs (which is a lot!) but at 28 my eggs were in their prime. This is why I preach to do this while you are young.
Risks and my side effects
Overall from my experience and all the research I’ve done, egg freezing is safe. But there are potential side effects you should be aware of.
- Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): This occurs when the ovaries become swollen and painful due to the hormone injections used to stimulate egg production. This can be very serious and requires medical attention.
- Mood swings: The hormonal changes during the egg freezing process can lead to mood swings. I felt irritated towards the end.
- Bloating: This is normal especially if you have a lot of eggs.
- Ovarian torsion: In rare cases, the ovaries may twist around the ligaments that hold them in place, causing severe pain and potentially cutting off the blood supply to the ovaries. This is why it’s recommended to not exercise during the process aside from walking.
Honestly, after I froze my eggs and got my period again, I fell into a weird hormonal depression. My desk was covered with tissues at one point because I could not stop crying. I didn’t feel like myself for two weeks as the hormones were leaving my body.
I was really surprised to feel this because I was never warned this could happen, so I’m telling you! I’m still very happy with my decision to freeze my eggs but I wish I had prepared myself on how I could feel after the process ended.
Storage and fees
Egg freezing storage involves preserving a woman’s eggs at a specific temperature in a laboratory. These eggs are stored in liquid nitrogen to keep them at a very low temperature until they are ready to be used for fertility treatments in the future.
I pay $650/year to keep my eggs in storage (my insurance paid for the first year). I use my HSA to pay for storage. I’ve seen storage fee ranges from $400-1,000. Some women pay quarterly, bi-yearly, or opt for long-term storage too.
Things to consider before freezing your eggs
Before deciding to freeze your eggs educate yourself about the potential success rates of egg freezing, your biological clock and ALL the costs involved. Read reviews about different fertility clinics in your area. I scoped out clinics on FertilityIQ heavy.
Think about your long-term plans and whether egg freezing aligns with your overall life goals. It’s a big decision. It’s important to know the emotional and physical toll the process can take, especially if you need to complete multiple cycles.
Despite how bad emotionally I felt after my egg retrieval, I have zero regrets about freezing my eggs. I have no long-term side effects and I have a major sense of calm and confidence about my future.
I hope this post was useful and feel free to read my other posts about egg freezing and DM me on IG @girlwithdrive if you have any specific questions.