Thinking of Freezing Your Eggs? Here’s Everything You Should Know About In Vitro Fertilization

Christie Cole
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So, you’re considering freezing your eggs. Whatever the reason may be, there’s no doubt the information out there is overwhelming – and honestly, a bit scary. But having gone through it myself, I can offer some guidance and support through the process.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you should know about freezing your eggs, a process called In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – and what to expect before, during and after.
 
 

Freezing Your Eggs: Step One

Freezing your eggs begins with a consultation with a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).

Your primary care physician can refer you to a RE, and you’ll quickly learn that age can be a factor in how many viable eggs are retrieved. The younger you get started, the stronger the likelihood of getting more viable – AKA fertile – eggs. It varies for everyone, but after age 35, the retrieval numbers are typically smaller.

I was in my mid-thirties when I did an egg freezing cycle, and we were able to get 14 eggs, ten of which were viable. This would be considered a good number for my age.
 

Fertilizing the egg with partner/donor sperm at the time of freezing increases the chances of a successful IVF transfer later on.

 
If your egg supply turns out to be low (called diminished ovarian reserve), your RE might try higher dosages of certain drugs or different methods of stimulating the ovaries to get the best response.

Fertilizing the egg with partner/donor sperm at the time of freezing increases the chances of a successful IVF transfer later on. It seems to keep the egg more stable than just freezing the egg by itself, so it’s a good option to look into if it’s practical for your situation.
 

Understand What Your Insurance Will and Won’t Cover

There’s lots to factor in with what health insurance does and does not cover. For example, your insurance may cover egg freezing and IVF, but it may only cover certain parts or a percentage. They might also have exclusions for IVF for infertility versus preservation and only cover certain brands of drugs.

Regardless, it’s a good idea to spend some time talking with your insurance provider to determine what they’ll cover.

If you don’t have coverage for fertility under your insurance, some of the doctor visits may still be covered under your general plan, and you can often get reduced rates on drugs if paying out-of-pocket.

However, if you do use insurance for your prescription drugs, expect that pricing to be full pop, which may max you out of any capped benefit more quickly.

Also keep in mind – if you are not using your eggs right away, there will be storage fees involved, often paid annually.
 

 
 

Adjust Your Lifestyle Just Like You Would if You Were Pregnant

Discuss the complete details in-depth with your doctor, but start by quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, caffeine and sugar, and even take prenatal vitamins.

There are a multitude of books you can explore to be proactive about ensuring your body is in optimal health for supporting this process, such as It Starts with the Egg.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can also be helpful for overall wellness, stress management and egg quality.

Look for one that specializes in fertility if possible. Certain supplements, like COQ10 and red raspberry leaf, can also assist in improving egg quality. Keep in mind to always discuss any recommendations or supplements with your RE beforehand.
 

If You’re Coming Off Birth Control, It May Take Time to Start a Fertility Cycle

Once your period naturally begins, your RE will give you definitive instructions about peeing on home kit ovulation strips every day at a specific time. This helps determine your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone that signals your body is releasing an egg, and subsequently time your freezing cycle.

Keep in mind, ovulation strips are not always perfect at detecting the rising LH levels, so you may have to get bloodwork done if the strips repeatedly give a negative result over a period of time.
 
 

The Process of Freezing Eggs Begins with Injections

Once you’re clear to begin, you’ll start with a round of injections. Why do you need the injections for freezing your eggs? They’ll help mimic the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and overall, help multiple egg development.

The IVF nurse (aka your new BFF and your biggest hero) will likely walk you through how to do each injection, which you will soon master administering yourself. Expect to do 3-4 daily injections at home.

injection

If the idea of needles freaks you out, here is some reassurance: they’ll be injected in what’s called subcutaneous tissue. The needles are thin and not very long, and they won’t be going super deep. Typically, you’ll alternate sides of your abdomen each day for your injections.
 

Injections help mimic the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and overall, help multiple egg development.

 
The amount of days you’ll need to do this depends on the number of follicles maturing and how quickly they do so, which could be around 10-14 days.

Pro Tip: You might experience bruising. If so, make sure you’re grabbing enough of the skin to make a little ‘pillow’ for the needle and try not to pinch the skin too hard.
 

The Reality of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): Expect to Make Frequent Doctor’s Visits

In addition to all the injections, there will be numerous blood draws (approximately every other day) to test hormone levels, see how your body is responding, and to monitor you throughout the process of ‘stimming.’ You’ll also need intravaginal ultrasound exams to see how the follicles are responding.

I found intravaginal exams uncomfortable the larger my ovaries got, but having breathing techniques like yogic pranayama to stay calm, as well as knowing they would only last a few moments, helped a lot.

Breathe easy with these 3 Yogic Breathing Exercises to Calm Down
 

Cut Back on Working Out and Rigorous Activity During the Freezing Cycle

Because your ovaries will swell, any twisting or vigorous activity could cause life-threatening torsion. However, there are some light activities you can do, like long walks on the beach and breathing practices and yoga approved by your doctor.

Throughout the process, you may feel pretty depleted, like you went to bed for ten hours but just dozed instead of getting actual sleep. You might not feel like doing anything except deep breathing anyway!

 

 
 

Remind Yourself to Take the Egg-Freezing Process One Step at a Time

You’ll find yourself surrounded by a plethora of needle tips, alcohol swabs, medications and a needle disposal box, among other things. Take a deep breath and know that you can do this.

Lay each one out on a clean counter, and go one step at a time. If you have a partner, enlist their support.

The pharmacy often has instructional videos you can watch online for each drug – it’s a good idea to watch those before you start your freezing cycle so you can ask your doctor or IVF nurse any questions.
 

Managing Your Stress During IVF is Vital

When your body and nervous system move into fight-or-flight mode, all the blood moves to your extremities. But you want your blood moving into your womb, a place of warmth and comfort. So things like meditation, acupuncture and other restorative activities are essential.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Go to bed early. Leave enough time to get to your appointments. Surround yourself with supportive friends. Give your body gratitude for all that it does, and respect yourself for being brave.

Find more ways to tackle stress with 10 Instant Stress Busters You Can Turn to When Stress Strikes (According to Science)
 
 

In Vitro Fertilization: Final Steps

Just when you’re getting used to your shot routine, there’s another one added to the mix. Along with the stimming drugs, you’ll receive an antagonist injection, which prevents you from ovulating before the RE can retrieve your eggs.

The aim of the freezing cycle is to get as many follicles/eggs to mature and be viable at one time, and the antagonist is what keeps things at bay until the RE determines it’s show time.

When the doctor determines that you have a good amount of mature follicles/eggs, you’re then ready for what’s called a trigger shot. 36 hours later, they’ll schedule your egg retrieval. The trigger shot is an intramuscular injection, so it goes into your backside – deeply.

It looks scarier than it actually is, but if you’re truly afraid of it, get your partner or a good friend to come with you to give you support.
 

The Egg Retrieval

When you arrive for the retrieval, you’ll likely receive an IV for a light anesthesia, some pain killers when you wake up, and after a little rest, you’ll be able to go home.

The doctor may tell you right then how many eggs they retrieved. About a day later, the embryologist or your doctor’s office will call you with how many of those eggs were viable (some may have been too young to freeze).
 
 

The Risks and Challenges of Freezing Eggs

Remember, freezing your eggs is a process of surrender. Beyond what you can do to be the healthiest mama possible, there are many unknowns. Perfectly normal and healthy women can end up with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can occur in varying degrees.

Or the body might not respond well to stimming and not produce enough follicles to warrant a retrieval, in which case you may have the cycle canceled and your doctor may adjust treatment and start you on another round. Or you may simply not get as many viable eggs as you hoped.

This is not always a straightforward journey – also a good reason why stress management is vital throughout the process.

It’s common for people to do at least two rounds of IVF in order to get pregnant, so this is something to discuss with your doctor about the ideal number of eggs you’ll want to freeze.
 

After Freezing Your Eggs, Your Body May Feel Strange

You might be overly tired or sore after the retrieval, as well as constipated. Many women shed some of their hair as well.

You’ll also have to wait until you’ve menstruated again and have been cleared by your doctor in order to start back up with your athletic routines.

If you’re paying out-of-pocket for the prescriptions, look into the Compassionate Care Program, which determines discounted drugs based on financial need. It doesn’t cost anything to put in an application.
 
 

Don’t Forget the Beautiful Reason You Choose In Vitro Fertilization in the First Place

When you’re feeling completely drained, scared of needles, tired of constant doctor appointments or looking at your unfortunate, bruised abs, remind yourself that you’re laying the groundwork for creating the life you want.

While there are no guarantees in life, you’re doing everything you can for the family you’re hoping to create or participate in.
 

Remind yourself that you’re laying the groundwork for creating the life you want.

 
I did all of my shots all by myself. It was really lonely sometimes. So I put on my brave face, took a deep breath, went slowly . . . and I found out I could do this. I DID do this!
And you can, too.

All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.

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Christie Cole

A published poet, Christie works in TV production by day and moonlights as editor of daughtersofculture.com. She practices ashtanga, Nichiren Buddhism and is completely smitten with the flying trapeze. She also enjoys tooling around on her motorcycle. Her hope is simply to bring joy to every life she meets.

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