Tick Tock. Ah the sound of the ol’ biological clock; the depletion of our eggs each year that goes by. That ticking women start to hear when they enter their 30s is real and justified. Something our male counterparts will never truly understand. What a joy.
More and more women who want kids are choosing to delay parenthood as they opt to travel, focus on their careers, or wait to find the right partner. But the issue is that, as we grow older, the eggs in our ovaries become increasingly likely to have genetic problems. That’s why ‘social egg freezing’ is becoming more common; freezing for future use when they are ready to conceive as opposed to doing so for medical reasons. Millions of women are deciding to take control and freeze their eggs.
So want to know what’s involved in freezing your eggs? I’ve just been through the process so read on to learn about my experience.
[[ *A few things to note:
- I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. I am just outlining my personal experience which may vary massively from person to person and dependent on which clinic is used.
- In medical terms egg freezing is referred to as oocyte vitrification or ooctye cryopreservation.
- There is absolutely no guarantee that egg freezing will result in a successful pregnancy. In fact, it is such a new process that there is very little data to show the success rates. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that everyone can complete the process. There are a number of factors involved including age, weight and the results from various tests and scans involved. ]]
To begin you’ll need to find the right fertility clinic for you. It’s useful for this to be near to where you live as you will be visiting it a lot throughout the process, especially coming up to the procedure as there may be daily scans.
After you make an enquiry, typically there will be a number of appointments over a few months. These include:
- Initial consultation whereby you should be taken through the process in full.
- Ultrasound scan to check how many follicles are on each ovary. Follicles are small sacs that have the potential to release an egg for fertilisation during each menstrual cycle. The clinic will likely only progress if there is an adequate amount of follicles.
- A number of blood tests, including AMH and Rubella. AMH measures the Anti-Mullerian Hormone, a specific hormone produced by the ovaries. You need to be off any contraceptive medication a few months prior to this to get an accurate result.
- Some clinics will require you to take a Chlamyida test or provide recent results.
Once that’s complete and everything is in order, you will have another consultation likely with a nurse. Here you will get more information about the medication you need to take, the actual procedure of collecting the eggs, and discuss timelines as the procedure will be based around your cycle.
The nurse or doctor will explain the medication you have to take in detail which you’ll receive a prescription for. The meds are to stimulate your ovaries to produce a number of eggs. In Ireland these are covered under the Drugs Payment Scheme so you might need to register for that. Of course, with most medication, there can be side effects and these should also be explained to you in detail.
As the process is based around your menstrual cycle, you will decide with the clinic which month you will like to go with. Then you’ll inform the clinic on Day 1 of your period and that’s when you start the medication. It is recommended to have this on hand prior to your period in case there are any delays with your pharmacy getting the medication in.
I had to take oral tablet medication for 10 days, before going in for a baseline scan. I didn’t experience any stark side effects from these oral tablets. I definitely felt more emotional than usual however that could have been down to a number of different factors.
After this the clinic advises when you need to begin your daily injections. Usually these injections are required to be taken for 7-14 days with scans in between to check how you're reacting to them and if the ovaries are being stimulated as expected. There are both morning and evening injections that are started on different days and need to be taken at very specific times. Needless to say, it’s best to ensure your social calendar is pretty free during this time! I had to take injections for 11 days and had to attend 5 scans during this period. My bloods were taken at every scan also.
Then if everything is looking ok, the nurse or doctor will let you know when you are due in for your procedure. This was very touch and go for me for a couple of days; there was a worry that I was being over-stimulated and it wouldn’t be safe to proceed with the actual egg collection. This was definitely a huge worry for me, having got so far in the process. Luckily, the doctors advised very carefully on how much or little of the injections to take each day and I was told 2 days beforehand that they were confident I could proceed. I think it's worth mentioning that this could happen though; you could go through everything else I mentioned above, as well as being incredibly mentally prepared and paying a lot of money, to then be told that it would not be possible to proceed. It’s definitely a risk and something to be aware of.
For me, the day procedure was unexpectedly easy. Once I was checked in and shown to my bed, I got changed into a patient gown, emptied my bladder, and the nurse and anaesthetist came by to ask me a few questions and tell me a bit more about what to expect. Then I was brought into the surgery room and given a general anaesthetic to be put to sleep.
When I woke up I was back in the original bed. I definitely felt incredibly drowsy for a few minutes and experienced a bit of pain. The nurse gave me some painkillers and when I came around fully I had a cup of tea. After checking my blood pressure and telling me how many eggs were collected, I was free to go. Not all of the eggs collected would be mature enough to be frozen, but the clinic advised I would find out the next day.
Of course, after a general anaesthetic you will need to be collected. They also recommend taking the rest of the day and the following day off work. I was in and out of the clinic within 3-4 hours and before I knew it, I was back in my own bed resting up. I did experience mild pain the following day and also some bleeding for about a week, which is perfectly normal.
Now that my eggs are frozen, I just leave them there and pay an annual fee to keep them on ice. If I ever need to use them (in my case, if I cannot get pregnant naturally), the eggs will need to be fertilised with sperm and then it will be another process that is a well-established version of IVF.
So what do you think? Thinking of putting that tick-tock in your head on hold for a while longer? Have you been through this process already or would you ever consider freezing your eggs? We would love to know why or why not. Let’s open the conversation. Leave a comment below.