June 15, 2016 | The Real Deal
With major companies like Apple and Facebook now subsidizing egg freezing options for female employees, it’s not surprising that egg freezing has garnered a lot of attention from the media recently. And unfortunately, media attention often goes hand-in-hand with misconceptions—especially when it comes to health and science news.
There’s a lot of information out there, and we know it can be difficult to sift through it all. That’s why we’re here—let’s crack open some of those egg freezing myths!
Myth #1: Egg freezing is new and experimental
This misconception stems from the fact that, prior to 2013, anyone who froze their eggs had to do so under an experimental protocol, because the procedure was fairly new and there wasn’t enough data available just yet. However, the processes used in egg freezing—like ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, and even cryopreservation—have actually been in use for decades.
The “experimental” label was dropped in 2013 after the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued a statement declaring there was enough scientific evidence to show that egg freezing was safe and effective. Their decision was based on the success of vitrification, a more effective fast-freezing method, and new studies that determined frozen eggs have roughly equivalent pregnancy rates to “fresh” eggs when used for in vitro fertilization. (Read more about these processes and studies here.)
Myth #2: Egg freezing is “dangerous”
Good news: there’s no evidence that ovarian stimulation and egg freezing causes harm to women or their potential future offspring. After extensive studies, there have been no documented differences in the risk of birth defects, chromosomal anomalies, or pregnancy complications when using frozen eggs or embryos (as compared to fresh eggs or embryos). There’s also no evidence—based on extensive research—that ovarian stimulation increases a woman’s risk of any cancers.
Generally, side effects are uncommon, and those that are experienced are usually minor. About 10% of women using the medications involved in egg freezing experience headaches, mood swings, insomnia, hot or cold flashes, breast tenderness, bloating, or mild fluid retention (similar to what’s experienced just before or during your period). Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome—a result of the ovaries working too hard—is rare, occurring in less than 1% of young, healthy women. Learn more.
Myth #3: The process is invasive and time-consuming
While making the choice to freeze your eggs is definitely a big deal, the hormone medication injections needed to begin the process are not—typically, they’re taken once or twice a day for 8–11 days. These medications are injected into the fatty tissue with thin needles, so they’re less painful, and most women have no problem administering the medications themselves. During this period, a doctor will check in on your progress with 5–7 brief office visits (think 15–30 minutes each) to monitor how your body is responding to the medication.
When you’re ready, the doctor will finish the process by retrieving your eggs in an egg retrieval surgery. While the word “surgery” may sound scary, there’s no need to stress about this part of the procedure—there are no stitches, no cuts, and it’ll only take about 15 minutes. Best of all? You’ll be under mild anesthesia (called “twilight anesthesia”), so you won’t feel a thing! The whole process takes about two weeks from start to finish. That’s less of a commitment than joining Beyoncé’s diet plan.
Myth #4: Freezing eggs now could reduce your future fertility
Because egg freezing involves removing eggs from the body, many mistakenly think the process decreases the number of eggs available for a future pregnancy. But in fact, every month we ovulate, we’re losing multiple eggs—the mature one we release, plus the others which don’t make the cut. (Read more of the nitty-gritty details on ovulation here!) Doctors estimate we actually lose hundreds of eggs each month by the time we’re in our late 20s.
During the egg freezing process, we use medication to ensure that multiple eggs develop and mature, preserving some of those otherwise “lost” eggs for use at a later time.
Myth #5: Freezing your eggs and using them later isn’t as effective as using “fresh” eggs when you’re older
While it may sound counterintuitive, the truth is that your eggs, frozen at age 30 and then thawed for fertilization later, actually have a higher likelihood of leading to a healthy pregnancy than “fresh” eggs fertilized at age 40. This is because the most important factor when it comes to fertility is not your age, but the age of your eggs—the younger your eggs are, the healthier they will be.
Starting at age 35, live birth rates begin to decline by 10% every two years for women who use their own eggs of the same age during in vitro fertilization. In contrast, women up to the age of 47 have a steady 51% success rate of when using younger eggs from a donor. (And there’s no difference in pregnancy rates for frozen and thawed eggs vs. fresh ones.) By freezing your eggs, you could be your own egg donor later on. Pretty cool.
Myth #6: Egg freezing is only an option for wealthy women
Egg freezing is a true game-changer, but the cost has prevented many women from taking advantage of this technology—and unfortunately, most insurance plans don’t cover egg freezing (except at those aforementioned tech companies).
At Extend Fertility, we are dedicated to making fertility preservation an option for more women. That’s why we’ve created a simple egg freezing package. One price ($4,990) for 12 frozen eggs (the number you’ll need for a pretty good likelihood of pregnancy) in up to 4 cycles (if you need ‘em). Plus, we’ve teamed up with a few financing partners who can assist with out-of-pocket costs for treatment, medication, or long-term storage. Learn more here.
Myth #7: Egg freezing is only for women with high-powered careers
Women choose to freeze their eggs for all variety of reasons. Some may choose it for medical purposes—like if they’re undergoing cancer or endometriosis treatments—while others opt to put their fertility “on ice” so they can focus on school or travel, or for financial reasons (yes, egg freezing is less expensive than a baby!). And a study published in Fertility and Sterility found that about a majority of women who freeze their eggs do so because they haven’t yet found the right partner.
Whatever the reason, the same study found that the majority of women who chose to freeze their eggs felt more empowered after the procedure. Now that’s the kind of result we like to see.