I’ve spoken openly about my fertility issues on this blog before and how I made the decision to freeze my eggs this year at 29. I always planned on writing a post about my experience, and even though I had my first consultation with my clinic back in September of 2020, I didn’t actually do a completely cycle until this month. Now that I’ve gone through the whole process from start to finish, I’m ready to share my experience with egg freezing.
I first asked my OBGYN to run some tests last year after stopping in for a routine checkup. My sister, who’s nine years older than me, started trying for children in her early 30s and had some issues, so I decided to get checked too just in case. That turned out to be a really good decision, because I learned I had a condition called Diminished Ovarian Reserve or DOR, which means I have a lot less eggs than other women my age.
After my consultation with the fertility clinic, we decided to wait a few months while I went off birth control to see if it was suppressing my fertility in any way. When I got tested three months later, my levels were in a better place but still quite low for my age category.
I did my first egg freezing cycle in February of this year. The process involved stopping into my clinic’s office about every other day, first thing in the morning, to get my bloodwork done and to do a transvaginal ultrasound. I will admit, I was very intimidated by the wand they used in the ultrasounds but it’s only uncomfortable for a few seconds and it wasn’t painful at all. While they do these ultrasounds, you’ll be able to watch on the screen as they count how many follicles you have. Each mature follicle can contain one egg, and I believe that a woman of my age without any fertility issues can expect to have somewhere around 20 follicles. The number of follicles resets every month when you get your period. In December when I went in for a checkup, I had 12. Another month, I had five.
After your checkup, you’ll get a phone from a nurse a few hours later telling you which medications to give yourself each night until your checkup. These medications come in the form of injections that you’ll be administering yourself. I was super intimidated in the beginning, but I’ve given myself so many shots at this point that I barely even hesitate before sticking a needle into my belly anymore. The needles are small enough that it’s not very painful, but they are still shots so they’re not exactly pleasant. Because of my DOR diagnosis, I had to give myself a much higher quantity of medication. Each day, I did about 4-5 injections. The first cycle I was told to do them all at night, but the second cycle I did two in the morning and two at night. There will be some prep involved for some of the medication. You might have to mix some powders and draw out medicine with a syringe, but you’ll get the hang of it. Most clinics have you do a class where you learn how to do the injections, but due to Covid I just watched some instructional videos. Eventually it’ll get to a point that it just becomes part of your routine and something to check off your list for the day.
At each checkup appointment, your doctor will monitor the growth of your follicles. Once the biggest follicles get to about 18mm, you’ll probably be ready for retrieval. That night, you’ll take a final trigger shot at an exact time the doctor gives you and then your egg retrieval will be scheduled for exactly 36 hours later.
I was definitely nervous about my retrieval, but now that I’m on the other side I have a confession: I kind of…enjoyed it. I mean, you show up in the morning, they give you some anesthesia to make you sleepy and then you wake up and it’s over! Then you get to spend the rest of the day lying in bed, watching TV and having a sick day. My sister and brother-in-law came to look after me, but I honestly would have been fine on my own. I didn’t have much pain and I didn’t even take any pain meds. That’s one upside of having less follicles. If you have closer to 20 follicles, you can probably expect more cramping and bloating, similar to bad period cramps.
When I did my cycle in February, I never made it to the retrieval because I wasn’t having a good enough response to the meds and my follicles weren’t growing as needed. My numbers this month were better compared to my last cycle.
When I triggered this time, I had six follicles. The sizes were 18, 18, 18, 11, 11, and 8. Realistically, I knew that the smaller follicles likely wouldn’t yield anything. I was right, and I learned the doctors had retrieved three eggs. Not every egg will mature and make it to the freezing stage, but I was lucky that all three of my eggs did!
Obviously it’s a pretty small number of eggs for someone my age, but since I’m only 29 the quality of the eggs will be good which still makes them pretty valuable. My doctor reassured me before the procedure by telling me that usually when people use egg donors, they get healthy eggs from people my age and usually receive them in batches of 6-8 eggs which gives them a good chance of having at least one child. Many women will only have to do one egg freezing cycle, but I’ll probably do at least one more to give myself better odds.
If you’re thinking about freezing your eggs, there’s still one big consideration: the cost. Egg freezing was NOT cheap, and that was still true even after I chose a clinic that charges considerably less than the average and I qualified for discounts on medicines due to my DOR diagnosis. If you’re paying completely out of pocket in the US, you can probably expect to pay around $7-10k.
Overall, egg freezing turned out to be a less intimidating process than I expected. At times it was hard to go through it all alone (well not entirely alone because I had the support of my amazing friends and family) without a spouse or a partner, but I just thought about how much of a badass I was for giving myself four shots a day and barely flinching and being independent and brave enough to make a proactive choice for my future.
Speaking of the future, I still don’t know what mine holds. Maybe I’ll have a baby naturally, maybe I’ll decide to go a different route like use an egg donor or adopting. Maybe I’ll decide not to have children at all. Regardless, I feel like I can breathe a little easier knowing I have some kind of insurance in the bank, so to speak. I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mother one day, so I’m confident this was the right choice for me. Finding out I had fertility issues was rough, but I was incredibly lucky that I was diagnosed while I was young enough that I still had some options available to me.