The Process and Costs of Freezing Your Eggs
Advances in medical science and technology have not only increased the average human lifespan and our quality of life, they have also helped to revolutionize the possibilities for human reproduction. Many women are choosing to delay childbearing, and some rely on options like egg freezing to help improve their chances of successfully starting a family later in life. If you are wondering if egg freezing might be right for you, you should first consider if you are a good candidate, what the process entails and what it will likely cost you.
Good Candidates for Egg Freezing
While your vision of motherhood likely never included putting your eggs on ice, that might be your best course of action if you are looking to extend your fertility options. Maybe you are focused on pursuing academic, personal or professional goals before taking on the challenges of motherhood. Perhaps you are battling cancer or another health issue that could threaten your fertility. Or maybe you are simply waiting for the right partner to start a family with. Whatever your reasons for delaying childbearing, your first step should be to consult a fertility specialist to determine whether you are a good candidate for the egg-freezing procedure. Your doctor can tell if you are a good candidate for egg freezing by running a few tests to check your ovarian reserve and levels of Follicle-Stimulating hormone (FSH) and Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH).
What Is Egg Freezing, and How Does It Work?
Egg freezing essentially pauses the biological clock by using extreme cold to maintain the egg in a state of suspended animation, thereby preserving its quality. Current medical knowledge indicates that age is a significant factor in fertility. Your eggs age right along with you, and as they do, the risk of miscarriage, chromosomal abnormalities or other complications increases. You can reduce these risks by freezing your eggs for later use. The younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the better your chances will be of using them successfully later on.
Before your eggs can be frozen, they must first be properly stimulated and then retrieved. You will need to take a series of hormone injections provided by your doctor to stimulate egg production in your ovaries. Next, you will need to undergo a brief surgical procedure (under sedation) wherein a needle is inserted through the vagina and used to retrieve as many eggs as possible from the follicles in your ovaries. The eggs are analyzed for maturity, and the most mature eggs are preserved cryogenically and stored in liquid nitrogen.
When you are ready to become pregnant, unfreeze your eggs and use them. After undergoing a thawing procedure, your eggs are fertilized and transferred to your uterus in a process called in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Average Cost of Egg Freezing
How much you will spend on freezing your eggs can vary according to when and where you have the procedure done. On average, the process of freezing your eggs costs about $10,000, but this usually doesn't include the cost of the hormone medications or storage fees. The medications required for egg freezing generally run about $5,000, and estimated storage costs can add another $500 annually to your expenses. When you are ready to use your eggs, the thawing, fertilization and transfer of embryo procedure costs about $5,000 for each cycle.
Not unlike any other medical procedure, freezing your eggs comes with some risks. The risks associated with egg freezing are similar to those for IVF. It’s possible to experience bleeding or infection from the egg-retrieval surgery, and the hormone injections can lead to a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, in which the ovaries enlarge. In addition, it can cause fluid to accumulate in the stomach and pelvis. Check with your doctor to discuss these risks or any other concerns you may have about the egg-freezing process.
Kristina Barroso earned a B.A. in Psychology from Florida International University. She is happily married, works full-time as a public school teacher and enjoys mothering her 5-year-old daughter and 14-year-old stepson. She has also fostered several children and loves writing about parenting, families, education and relationships on WorkingMother.com and TheClassroom.com.