What is all the buzz about? Maybe you heard a friend talking about freezing her eggs. Maybe an ad popped up on your Instagram feed about egg freezing in San Francisco. Or maybe a recent birthday got you thinking about time and whether – and if – you should start looking into egg freezing for yourself. Whatever prompted the thought, there’s never been a better time to learn about the process and figure out if freezing your eggs is the right thing for you.

And congratulations! Taking an active role in your fertility is an empowering thing to do.

Reproductive Medicine Associates of Northern California (RMANorCal), a leading fertility clinic with offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto, breaks down the basics of egg freezing so you can make an informed choice that you’re comfortable with.

RMANorCal’s Dr. Jonathan Kort and Dr. Scott Morin bring you “Egg Freezing 101”:

Is egg freezing a good idea?

Dr. Kort: The answer to this question is a completely personal one, but egg freezing does offer a big benefit: it puts your fertility on hold while you live your life and decide on your future. Because a woman’s fertility is directly related to her eggs, and the quantity and quality of those eggs decline with age, women who aren’t sure if or when they will have kids might want to consider freezing their eggs. By doing so, women are basically taking out an insurance policy by stopping their biological clocks and preserving the health and age of the frozen eggs until they decide the time is right to have children.

Who should freeze their eggs and when?

Dr. Morin: While any woman can freeze her eggs, the procedure is especially helpful for women who don’t know if they want to have kids in the future and those who know they want kids but are not ready right now or haven’t found the right partner. In the Bay Area, many women have coverage through their employers for egg freezing, which simplifies the question of when the best time to freeze eggs is –  the truth is, earlier is always better when it comes to egg quality.

What does the egg freezing process consist of?

Dr. Morin: Making the initial decision to freeze your eggs is the hardest part. Once that’s done, you’ll head to a fertility doctor who can help you. At that first appointment, your doctor will get to know you and your health history. They will draw blood to test your AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) which gives an estimate of how many eggs you have in your ovaries and provides them with a snapshot of your fertility.  They will visualize your ovaries with a brief ultrasound, and, when preparing you for your egg freezing cycle, prescribe medications to increase the number of mature eggs in your ovaries. At that point, you’re ready to start your egg freezing cycle, which includes taking the prescribed medication and coming back to your doctor’s office so he or she can monitor your progress. Once your eggs are mature – which happens about ten days after you begin taking the stimulation medication – you’ll come back to your doctor’s office for an egg retrieval, a 15-minute procedure done under light anesthesia. The eggs retrieved will be frozen on the same day and stored until you’re ready to use them – whether that’s months or years down the road.

Does egg freezing work? How can I use my frozen eggs?

Dr. Kort: It’s one thing to freeze your eggs, but what you really care about is that they’re healthy when it comes time to use them. While many fertility clinics offer egg freezing, few have significant experience in thawing eggs when you actually need them. Pioneering researchers from the IVI-RMA Global network, to which RMANorCal belongs, recently published the world’s largest experience of warming previously frozen eggs. In this study, the authors followed 1,468 women who froze their eggs for non-medical reasons. Among those who returned to warm them for use in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), 85% of the eggs survived. Survival was even better (95%) for women who froze their eggs when they were 35 or younger. The fertility clinic where you freeze your eggs and have them thawed is important.

Is egg freezing safe for me and my future baby?

Dr. Morin: Multiple studies have examined the downstream health outcomes of patients who used the medications needed in an egg freezing cycle and have shown little to no risk. Breakthrough research from the IVI-RMA Global network showed that the risk of genetic problems in embryos created from frozen eggs was not increased over eggs that hadn’t been frozen. This and other research suggests that babies born following egg freezing are not at increased risk.

How much does egg freezing cost?

Dr. Kort: At RMA of Northern California, the cost for egg freezing is one of the lowest in the San Francisco Bay Area. For patients paying out-of-pocket, the cost is $7,999 plus $400 for an initial consultation. Your eggs are stored for free for the first year and the cost is $600 for each year of storage thereafter. Even better news is that RMA of Northern California is in network with most major insurance plans that offer coverage for fertility benefits, including Progyny and Carrot. If you’re serious about freezing your eggs, you should check with your employer today to see if your company offers fertility benefits. For those patients without coverage, RMA is a “preferred partner” of many financing companies including Future Family and Lending Club.

What if I’m still not sure?

Dr. Morin: Egg freezing is a big decision, and it’s okay not to be sure about it right away. If it’s something you’re considering, you can start small and see a fertility doctor for an initial consultation that gives you a better idea about your fertility. Once your doctor looks at your reproductive health and hormone levels, you’ll be better informed about whether or not egg freezing is right for you.

If you are considering egg freezing or struggling with infertility, book a consultation with Dr. Kort or Dr. Morin. Call the San Francisco office at (415) 603-6999 to speak to one of our patient liaisons and get started today.