While your plans for your future may include a family, now might not be the right time. Fertility preservation, or egg freezing, gives individuals the possibility of preserving their fertility for different family building options. We held a webinar to host a discussion on Egg Freezing 101 where panelists shared their personal experiences with egg freezing and discussed the egg freezing process.
The webinar featured:
- Brandi Errico, National Account Director, Progyny
- Jan Kelly, Progyny Member
- Dr. Valerie Libby, MD, Reproductive Endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility, Progyny network provider
Introductions and Additional Resources
This webinar featured three panelists who each froze their eggs and shared a different perspective on their respective journeys. Host Brandi Errico and panelist Jan Kelly both had access to the Progyny benefit and made the decision to freeze their eggs for options for the future. Dr. Valerie Libby also shares her experience with going through the egg freezing process multiple times and her passion for empowering women and raising awareness around egg freezing and the process. Outside of this webinar, Progyny has a variety of educational resources available to you on Progyny.com/education and through our podcast, This is Infertility, where you can learn more about different family building journeys. In addition, we have a YouTube channel that has videos around various topics, including egg freezing. Progyny’s dedicated Patient Care Advocates and Clinical Educators are also available to answer any questions you might have as a Progyny member.
The Egg Freezing Process
What is egg freezing?
As the age of a person with ovaries gets older, the amount and quality of the eggs will decrease. With this in mind, the goal of egg freezing is to take the eggs at your current age and keep these eggs frozen until you are ready to move forward with building a family, or you decide you do not want them frozen anymore. Even if you have one child through an unassisted pregnancy, these frozen eggs can be an utilized for pregnancy at a later date.
What are some of the most common reasons someone may consider freezing their eggs?
There are many reasons someone can decide to move forward with egg freezing. The most common reason is to delay childbearing and take some of that control back against the biological clock that people with ovaries face. Some other reasons may include:
- Medical need such as premature ovarian failure or early menopause
- Chemotherapy and radiation treatments that may impact fertility
- Ovarian cyst removal
- Gender dysphoria
- Member of LGBTQ+ community wanting to use donor sperm to have a child in the future
What is the typical timeline of the treatment process?
While there may be some circumstances that require an expedited treatment path (for example an individual wanting to freeze their eggs before starting chemotherapy or radiation treatment) under normal circumstances the physician will take some time to assess an individual’s specific situation and run tests before diving into medication protocol. The overall timeline of the process depends on your next period as once the period starts you can schedule an ultrasound and bloodwork. From those test results your physician will talk through medication protocols and next steps. Then next steps usually begin with the following menstrual cycle. Depending on your specific protocol, you may start with birth control pills or other medications leading up to the stimulation phase.
When it is time to begin stimulation of your ovaries, you will start daily injections that continue for about 9-12 days. Throughout that time, you will come in for ultrasounds and bloodwork to be monitored about every other day. This is usually done early in the morning before you start your workday, and you will get results back from the clinic in the afternoon where they will tell you how to adjust the medications and when to return to the clinic for your next monitoring visit. At the end of the stimulation phase, the ovarian follicles containing your eggs have grown in size, and will soon be ready for retrieval.
You will then come in for the egg retrieval and be put under anesthesia. The retrieval will only last about 15-20 minutes and then you will go into the recovery room for about an hour. You will need someone to drive you home and stay with you that day as you recover from the anesthesia. The recovery period after the retrieval is different from person to person. Most people will feel sore for a couple of days, while others experience some discomfort for up to a week.
Finding Support on your Egg Freezing Journey
While the treatment process can take a physical toll, there is also an emotional weight that comes with the egg freezing journey. Although making the decision to freeze your eggs can be empowering, it can also come with some mental and emotional challenges. Coming to the decision to freeze your eggs can be a difficult one and there can be many steps to take between realizing you are interested in egg freezing and moving forward with treatment. A fertility journey can be isolating at times so it is also important to have a support system that you can lean on as well as talk to about the process. Egg freezing has not always been a widely talked about topic but we are committed to sharing information and offering education so you can make informed decisions and understand your options. If you are a Progyny member you can always reach out to your Patient Care Advocate or a Clinical Educator to talk about treatment options and to provide emotional support along your journey.
- How many eggs should I freeze? Is it better to freeze eggs or embryos?
Everyone’s situation is unique so this depends on your future family building goals. During the egg thawing process, usually 95% of the frozen eggs survive the thaw and then during the fertilization process, about 70% fertilize normally. Of those, about 50% will grow to the blastocyst phase, which is a more mature phase of embryo, that has a higher likelihood to result in pregnancy and live birth. Approximately 20 – 35% of the eggs will make it to this blastocyst stage, which is the stage of development where fertility doctors can better determine which embryos have the greatest likelihood of implantation. While it will vary, in general, we usually say if you’re under the age of 37 you want about 10-15 eggs frozen for every child you’re planning to have. If you’re over the age of 37 when you freeze your eggs, you want about 15 to 20 eggs frozen for every child that you want.
Egg freezing technology has improved over the last decade and most doctors now use a process called rapid vitrification, where they dehydrate the eggs so that ice crystals do not form. In the past the ice crystals could damage the frozen eggs. With this technology, the large studies are showing that frozen eggs and frozen embryos produce almost the exact same outcomes.
- Do you need to remove your IUD before starting an egg freezing process?
This is a common misconception, but most providers say you do not need to remove an IUD during your egg retrieval or during the stimulation process. If you have a Nexplanon or if you’re taking birth control pills, those are things you would want to remove or stop taking because they can affect your response to some of the medications. It is important to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about your options.
- Is egg retrieval painful? Will I need to take time off from work?
It’s important to know that everyone’s response will be a bit different. During the retrieval you are under anesthesia and won’t feel anything during the actual procedure, however you may feel bloated during the injections as your follicles and ovaries are growing and there may be some cramping after the retrieval during the recovery period. The bloating should gradually decrease during the week after your retrieval. It’s also important to note that your response may be different based on the amount of eggs that are retrieved during the process as well.
If you have any other questions related to this webinar, please don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a Progyny member and have any questions about your fertility benefit or coverage, please call 888.597.5065.