Fertility preservation, or egg freezing, is for women (and individuals born with female reproductive organs) who may not be ready for a baby now. It is available for both elective reasons, such as not having found the right partner, and medical reasons, such as undergoing treatment for cancer. In both cases, egg freezing allows you to preserve your eggs at the age you froze them, so they can be protected against further aging or radiation and chemotherapy.
In either case, your eggs will wait until you are ready to use them, putting the power back in your court.
Egg freezing allows you to press pause on your fertility. By freezing your eggs while they are still young and healthy, you can empower yourself to plan your future fertility your way. The process is safe, relatively quick and rewarding, and the chances of your eggs surviving their thaw are very good.
You may also consider the cost of egg freezing and possible side effects.
What is Egg Freezing?
As a woman ages, unfortunately, the quantity and quality of her eggs diminish. While the decline in quality actually starts when women are in their 20s, this process accelerates around age 35, just as many women are hitting their stride in their professional lives.
Egg freezing allows you to press pause on your fertility.
RMA's Egg Freezing Process
Egg freezing cycles are closely monitored and consist of several key steps. Learn about each of the steps in the egg freezing process below.
During your initial consultation, your RMA doctor will review your medical information to learn more about your fertility and overall health. Your ovarian reserve (another way of saying the number of eggs remaining in the ovary) will then be determined with a blood test that tests AMH levels and an ultrasound to visualize the ovaries. Both of these are done in our office.
During this visit, we will also let you know what to expect from the egg freezing process. This will include sharing information about related medications, scheduling, protocols, and answering any questions you may have.
Preparing for Your Egg Freezing Cycle
When you ovulate naturally, only a single egg is produced. Hormone injections, which are taken for 8-12 days prior to your egg retrieval, will stimulate your ovaries so that multiple eggs develop during your cycle.
During this time, you’ll need to visit our office several times for ultrasound monitoring and blood tests in order to ensure that you are responding well to the medication.
Your Egg Retrieval
Once your eggs have finished maturing, you will be scheduled for egg retrieval. The egg retrieval process is an outpatient procedure (performed under twilight anesthesia) and typically only takes between five to ten minutes. During the retrieval, your doctor will retrieve several eggs from your ovaries with the help of a transvaginal ultrasound.
Immediately after the retrieval, your eggs will be frozen.
Cancer and Fertility Preservation
The following two steps are only applicable if you are seeking egg freezing after a cancer diagnosis.
Unfortunately, many cancer treatments can impair fertility in both women and men. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other interventions can significantly damage ovarian function in women and decrease total motile sperm count in men, making fertility preservation critical for patients who may want to have a family in the future.
We Respond Quickly
For patients dealing with an indication of cancer, speaking with a fertility doctor quickly and freezing eggs and sperm for future use is crucial. Usually, cancer patients can be seen within 24-48 hours by one of our fertility doctors, and their case is expedited so both an egg freezing cycle and subsequent cancer treatment can be completed in a timely manner.
If you are planning to undergo egg freezing for cancer treatment, it’s important to coordinate care with an oncologist as well as our treatment team. In some cases, cancer treatment may need to be prioritized over fertility preservation.
Egg Freezing Medication
During your cycle, you will take oral medications for several days and then move onto injectable medications. These injections stimulate or grow all the eggs in your ovaries. You will take ovary-stimulating medication for about 10 days until your eggs are ready to be removed. About 36 hours before your egg retrieval, you will take one final ‘trigger shot’ to prepare your eggs for release.
The medications for an egg freezing cycle will vary from patient to patient but often consists of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to stimulate egg production. Some commonly used FSH medications include Gonal-F, Follistim, or Menopur. Menopur is a medication that combines FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH). To prevent the premature release of the eggs before an egg retrieval fertility medications such as Ganirelix Acetate or Cetrotide may be used.
Egg Freezing Medication Side Effects
Fertility medications are typically very safe but may cause mild discomfort from bloating. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome may occur in very rare cases but can be avoided with regular monitoring at our clinic.
Please consult your care team if you are experiencing any side effects.