As an adult, you’re often asked to consider your future. Where do you picture yourself in five years? Ten years? Forty? For women, it’s especially difficult. There is an ominous ticking that represents the period of time that a women’s eggs are viable, also known as the biological clock. Most women hear, whether it be from a doting mother, friend or nosy neighbor that they need to get busy by the time they’re 30. But there is another sound in the background: the whisper of egg freezing.
Is there another option out there that allows women to not worry about sacrificing their career or rush into a relationship in order to have children before it’s “too late”? The whisper is getting louder with its mentions in shows such as “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” In “New Girl,” Jess sought to investigate whether her ovaries were barren. Instead, she found herself comforting best friend Cece, who had never even considered having children.
In “The Mindy Project,” Mindy started a fertility clinic in New York City and a side project called Later Baby. Mindy and her partner traveled to colleges and presented the idea of egg freezing to 20-something women.
In the reality TV realm, Kim Kardashian used the eggs she had frozen for in vitro fertilization along with a surrogate for her latter two children, after having complications during her first two pregnancies. Her older sister, Kourtney Kardashian, played with the idea of egg freezing so that if she were to fall in love again, she could have another baby.
It’s possible to think, “Well, I could always freeze my eggs,” and then never research it or think about the possible emotional and physical costs. Don’t even know if it’s something you want? Here’s a quick breakdown of the egg freezing process.
1. Make an Appointment
Schedule a visit to your gynecologist or local fertility clinic for the third day of your period. If you’re taking this seriously, then you don’t want to be on hormonal birth control. The doctor will take blood for two tests: the ovarian reserve testing in which they test the hormone levels in your blood to determine how many eggs are left, and the infectious disease screening, in which you are tested for diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B or C.
Based on these results, the doctor can determine how many eggs could be retrieved with the help of hormones and whether egg freezing is a fit for you.
2. Ask Questions!
This is where you ask any and all questions, in order to determine whether this is a procedure you would like to pursue. This is also a good time to get a second opinion.
3. Back on the Pill … and Other Medication
If you have decided to move forward, your doctor will prescribe a hormonal birth control that you will take for a couple weeks. This helps determine when you are ovulating. After a couple weeks, birth control ends and hormone injections begin.
At this point you will go to the clinic daily for another couple weeks for blood tests and ultrasounds. During all of this you cannot engage in any sexual acts because you are very fertile, and could possibly get pregnant. Also, you must abstain from alcohol and intense workouts. When your hormones are right, the doctor will give you the okay for a trigger shot — this is the big one.
Exactly 36 hours later, you will go in for egg retrieval. Don’t worry! You will be under anesthesia while they probe into your ovaries. Attached to the probe is a hollow needle that will suck the viable follicles out. Because of cramping and possible light bleeding, it’s best to take the next day off work.
Within a week after the surgery, you should be back to normal activities. Due to the ups and downs of hormones that have been going through your system the past month, there is a good chance of mood swings. For at least two weeks after you’ll have to abstain from unprotected sex again. There is still a good chance of being fertile and conceiving.
After this point, your side of it is done. But what happens to all those eggs?
5. The Hand-Off
After retrieving the eggs, the doctor hands them off to the lab where an embryologist puts them into a liquid that helps preserve them.
6. Freeze the egg.
The embryologist then puts the eggs into an incubator that recreates the living conditions inside your body. Then, it strips the follicle down until it’s just the egg. From there it’s dipped into a tank of liquid nitrogen in a process called vitrification, the process of freezing the eggs.
7. See You Later
Last, the frozen eggs will be stored in a liquid nitrogen tank along with thousands of other eggs until you’re ready to use them.
It seems like a relatively easy process, so the question comes up, why aren’t more people doing it? This is where the price tag comes in. After all, not everyone is a Kardashian with a large amount of disposable income. If you’re considering egg freezing, Nicole Ellis from the Washington Post does a series on YouTube. Ellis guides you through her decision to freeze or not to freeze.
FertilityIQ, founded by a couple that struggled with infertility and the egg freezing process, breaks down the cost of egg freezing along with other fertility questions, such as finding a doctor. The average cost of procedure is $11,000. This doesn’t include the medication leading up to the procedure. Medication averages between $3,000-$6,000. The cost that most don’t think of is storage, which can cost a minimum of $500 per year, bringing the average cost to between $15,000-$20,000. Sadly, this is the cost for just one cycle. Data shows that for better results and a higher likelihood that the eggs lead to a birth, you’ll have to endure at least two cycles.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) states that the optimal time to dive into egg freezing is in a woman’s early 20s to early 30s. With the skyrocketing price, this can leave most women debating whether to freeze their eggs or use the same amount of money for a down payment for a house. How is one to afford such a procedure then?
Sixteen states require insurance companies to supply coverage for infertility treatments. This doesn’t mean that they will cover the whole bill, and reading the fine print is necessary. Resolve.org lists information on which states are required to supply coverage, and how to navigate that journey with your agency. MyraWealth, a financial advising agency, lists other ways that one might be able to make this process more affordable. Some companies such as Apple and Facebook pay for egg freezing partially or in full.
Not all fertility clinics are created equal. Make sure to research and compare prices of different clinics. Some clinics offer bundle prices that lock you in for a set price and a predetermined amount of eggs. Instead of paying individually for three procedures to retrieve a possible twenty eggs, a bundle allows you the comfort of mind that it might take three to five procedures to retrieve those twenty eggs. Some clinics allow a discount if you donate some of the eggs they retrieve.
After the high costs and undergoing surgery, egg freezing still is not a guarantee. Much of the vitality of the eggs depend on the age of the potential mother; mid-20s are ideal for the freshest eggs, pun intended. If this is something you want then start saving now, consider a loan or talk to friends or family members.