Freezing your eggs isn’t just a one and done procedure. Unlike our male counterparts who can pretty much just ejaculate into a cup to preserve their assets, freezing female eggs is a time-consuming process, and one you’ll need to plan for. Of course, every woman’s timeline is going to look a little bit different depending on fertility and health issues.
Here’s a realistic look at just how much time you’ll need when it comes to egg freezing, so that you can start to make the necessary arrangements, as far as time off from work, scheduling appointments, and support.
Your First Consultation
When It Happens: Whenever you can get an appointment
Time Estimate: 45 to 60 minutes
During your first visit, your doctor will review your medical history, walk you through the process, and answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
Insider Tip: If your period is spot on (see what I did there?) and you can predict exactly when you’ll be menstruating, it’s wise to schedule this initial consultation around day 2 or 3 of your period, so that you can have the initial testing done in the same visit. Why? “Hormones fluctuate throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, “ explains Dr. Farah S. Chuong of the Fertility and IVF Center of Miami. “Looking at a woman’s day 2/3 lab results gives us a surrogate marker for the quantity of eggs that are available during a specific cycle.”
The ultrasound and lab tests can help predict how many eggs might be retrieved during the cycle and how many cycles should be planned.
Initial Blood Work And Testing
When It Happens: Day 2 Or 3 Of Your Period
Time Estimate: 30 Minutes
Whether you were able to line up your first appointment with your cycle or not, factor in at least additional 30 minutes for all the testing needed before you begin this process, such as an ultrasound and lab tests. Dr. Mark Perloe, medical director at Georgia Reproductive Specialists explains, “The ultrasound and lab tests can help predict how many eggs might be retrieved during the cycle and how many cycles should be planned.”
An Appointment To Review Your Results
When It Happens: 2 to 3 Weeks Later
Time Estimate: 30 Minutes
According to Dr. Perloe, once you’ve gone through the necessary testing, you’re looking at two to three weeks before the results come in. Once they do, you’ll return to the office to review them. “We discuss the cost per retrieval, and based on the [woman’s] age and ultrasound result, how many retrieval cycles would be recommended to achieve a 95% pregnancy rate,” he explains. Depending on the facility and where you are in your period cycle at this point (again, you’ll need to wait until Day 2 or 3 of your period), you’ll either learn how to self-administer fertility shots at this appointment, or the nurse will have you register for an upcoming class on how to do it correctly.
Taking The Drugs (And Monitoring Your Progress)
When It Happens: Day 2 Or 3 Of Your Period
Time Estimate: 10 to 12 Days
Once you start giving yourself fertility shots, you’ll be asked to come into the office for testing every other day to see how your eggs are responding to the fertility drugs, until your doctor determines that they’re ready to be harvested.
“Fertility medication, such as ovulation induction agents and gonadotropins, are used to stimulate ovulation,” explains Chuong. “During this process we overstimulate the ovaries for the intent of getting a good number of eggs. Each stimulation protocol is individually tailored to the patient’s unique circumstances. Once we start stimulation, [a woman needs] typically 10 to 12 days of injectable medication to stimulate the ovary to produce many follicles. When your doctor determines that your eggs have reached a mature enough size during these visits, he or she will administer what’s known as a “trigger shot.” “The trigger shot is the hormone hCG or sometimes Lupron,” says Perloe. “It helps mature the eggs, and release them from the follicle wall so they can be retrieved.”
When it Happens: 36 Hours After The “Trigger Shot”
Time Estimate: 60 Minutes
You’ll need to schedule your appointment for retrieval 36 hours after the “trigger shot” when your eggs will have reached optimal maturity. “Under general anesthesia, your doctor will use an ultrasound-guided needle to aspirate your egg follicles and suction the eggs to be frozen,” explains Serena H. Chen, MD, Member of Progyny’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. “Following egg retrieval, you will be taken to the recovery room to recover from anesthesia, and advised to rest for the remainder of the day.” A.k.a., you’re not going back to the office.
When It Happens: Right After Retrieval
Time Estimate: 4 to 5 Days
You may not be down for the count for the entire duration of the four to five recovery days. In fact, most patients are back in action after one to two days of taking it easy. But for some, Chuong says that discomfort could last for much longer. “This [procedure] will often leave the patient feeling bloated and sore. These symptoms are time limited and will go away within four to five days.
Following egg retrieval, you will be taken to the recovery room to recover from anesthesia, and advised to rest for the remainder of the day. A.k.a., you’re not going back to the office.
If You Didn’t Get Enough Eggs
Unfortunately, if your doctor determines that there weren’t enough viable eggs from your first round of harvesting, you’re going to need to repeat the process again. If this happens, Perloe says your doctor will wait two to three months before starting the next round. “We wait a few months between cycles, because back to back cycles appear to generate fewer eggs than if we wait two to three months.”
What Happens To Your Eggs Next?
Once your eggs have been successfully harvested, they undergo the process of freezing, and are stored away until you’re ready to use them. “The eggs recovered from the retrieval are immediately frozen using a process called vitrification,” explains Chen. “By using vitrification, your eggs will be ‘flash frozen’ to keep the eggs from forming ice crystals, which can cause damage. Clinics keep a woman’s eggs in cold storage.”
For how long can they be stored? According to Chen, eggs that are frozen this way can be stored for up to ten years and still used to successfully achieve pregnancy.
Danielle Page is a New York-based writer and editor whose work has been featured on Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Elle, AskMen, Bustle, The New York Times and others. She's happiest when covering topics that matter to women, whether it's an article about women's fertility or reviewing the latest in kegel monitoring technology. Follow Danielle @TheDaniellePage for her latest features -- and lots of photos of her cat.
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