Egg Freezing FAQs
What is the optimal age to freeze eggs? Dr. Jamie Grifo of NYU Fertility explains: “if a woman freezes her eggs too early there is always the possibility that she may get pregnant without needing to use her frozen eggs. However, if we look at IVF data there is an inflection point in pregnancy rates after the age of 35. Between the ages of 38 to 39 there is an even larger inflection point. Certainly over age 42 there is not much benefit to freezing your eggs. Typically, 41 and under is the limit.”
Is there an age cut off limit for egg freezing? Most clinics recommend freezing earlier for better quality embryos. Although the specific age cut off limit varies from clinic to clinic, typically fertility clinics will not see patients over 41. However, in addition to age, clinics also take into account hormone levels and antral follicle (resting follicle) count.
I am fertile now, why do I need to take hormones to harvest my eggs? During monthly ovulation, the body usually chooses ONE egg to ovulate. The rest of the eggs get reabsorbed in the body. As egg freezing’s purpose is to produce and freeze as many eggs as possible, stimulation drugs are required to a) produce a larger volume of eggs b) inhibit ovulation. Some of the drugs (i.e.: Menopur, Follistim) stimulate egg production, while other drugs (i.e.: Cetrotide, Ganirelix) keep the body from reabsorbing them.
Why is there such a lack of egg freezing statistics available today? Egg freezing, specifically vitrification, is still a relatively new procedure. Dr. Jamie Grifo discusses the lack of available statistics: “To date, there is not a lot of data available as there have not been a lot of women who have come back to use their frozen eggs. Furthermore, as egg freezing is still labeled an experimental procedure by the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) there is still no standardized way to record data.”
Why do I need so many ultrasounds and blood work prior to the egg retrieval procedure? To ensure that as many healthy and mature eggs are retrieved as possible it is important to frequently check both follicle growth and hormone levels. The ultrasounds measure the maturation of your follicles (the fluid sacs containing your eggs) while the blood work confirms that your medication dosage is correct and that your eggs are maturing. Ultrasounds and blood work may be a real chore, but they are essential to the egg freezing process.
What are the most common side effects of a hormone stimulation medication cycle? Common side effects that women could experience include: weight gain, abdominal discomfort, bloating and irritability. These symptoms will, most likely, increase in intensity a few days before your retrieval as the medication causes the stimulation of multiple eggs as opposed to the single egg produced in a normal ovulation cycle.
How many retrieved eggs are considered a good amount? Dr. Licciardi of NYU Fertility Center answers succinctly answers this question:“The too obvious answer is the more the better. However 10-15 is a good yield. More than that is a bonus. It is true 30 may be better than 15, but most women do not make 30 so that should not be your goal. Estimates in the 10-15 range usually do not prompt much patient/doctor discussion, however when the estimate is lower, the talks become more frequent and important.”
What percentage of eggs survive the thawing process? Due to advances in egg vitrification, most clinics report a 90%+ thawing success rate. This is much higher than the older, slow-freezing method.
Do the stimulation shots hurt? FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) injections stimulate follicle growth, while LH injections cause eggs to mature. Both of these injections are administered subcutaneously – that means below the skin via a needle – either in the belly or upper thigh. The insertion of the needle is not painful, however there can be slight discomfort when the liquid goes under the skin.
How much does egg freezing cost? While every clinic’s fees will vary, the typical cost for egg freezing is $8,000 to $12,000. Note, however, that this does not often include your fertility medications, which can cost about $2,000-4,000. Also, you need to factor egg storage costs into this estimate, which can run a couple hundred dollars per year.
Will my health insurance cover egg freezing? Typically, most health insurance companies do not cover elective fertility procedures. However, you should check with your provider directly to confirm your specific coverage details. They may cover some blood tests, ultrasounds or other pre-retrieval procedures.
How long can cryopreserved eggs be stored? The jury is still out on this one. Most doctors believe that eggs can be safely frozen for up to ten years, however others believe that since frozen eggs are stored in liquid nitrogen (which stops all biological activities in the cell) eggs can be kept in storage indefinitely. Most clinics believe, however, that frozen eggs can last indefinitely - as long as they are frozen correctly and maintained at the correct temperature. The process keeps them at their peak.
Is there any thing I can do to lessen the bloating during hormone stimulation cycle? The hormone stimulation medications hyper-activate the development of multiple follicles, which enlarge the ovaries. Somewhat counter-intuitively, be sure to drink a lot of water or other clear fluids to help reduce the bloating. Also, taking whey protein powder helps relieve some women’s bloating; whey powder can be found in most health food stores.
Why am I still bloated post procedure? Most women are still bloated right after their procedure. This is due to the fact that the ovulation cycle has been hyper-stimulated and the follicles are still enlarged because of the increased egg production. This bloating should not last more than one week.
Why do I need to stop consuming caffeine and alcohol prior to my procedure? Numerous studies show that consumption of both caffeine (in any form including coffee, tea, cola, etc.) and alcohol decreases fertility. Be sure to slowly wean yourself off of both substances in the months prior to your egg retrieval.
Should I alter my diet prior to freezing my eggs? Although there is no a specific “egg freezing diet,” patients are recommended to follow a healthy lifestyle. The “don’t” list includes: caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes. While the “do” list includes: organic produce, whole grain foods and concentrated nutrient sources (i.e.: cold pressed nut oils, oily fish, live yogurt).
Why am I not permitted to do any high impact exercise prior to and two weeks after my procedure? Due to the stimulation hormones you are taking, your ovaries will become extremely enlarged and these activities could harm your egg development. It is recommended that you stick with low impact exercises that keep your heart rate under 140. Most importantly, however, exercise should be limited to avoid ovarian torsion that could cut off blood supply to the ovaries. If this were to occur (most likely from high impact activities), the ovary would have to be surgically repaired and in the worst-case scenario be removed.