Modern women—yea, we mean you!—have a lot going on in their lives. From rewarding careers, to strong friendships, to exciting travel… it’s no wonder that one of the most common questions we get from patients is “how long does egg freezing take?”
The good news is that the egg freezing process timeline isn’t as extensive as you might think. While your personal egg freezing timeline will be influenced by your own choices, the process can be completed is as little as a few weeks. Let’s break it down, step by step:
Egg freezing timeline step 1: the prep
The egg freezing timeline begins when you come in for your very first appointment: your fertility assessment. During this brief office appointment, our healthcare team will gather information about your fertility health and your goals for the future. This information will then be used to personalize your consultation with the reproductive endocrinologist (a specialist in fertility medicine)—the second appointment—where you and the doctor discuss your fertility, your age, your medical history, and the egg freezing process.
Once you decide to freeze your eggs, there’s some required and recommended testing, such as STI testing, that you’ll complete before your cycle begins (if you haven’t already). And finally, you’ll need to complete a “logistics visit,” during which the healthcare team will prep you to start your egg freezing cycle, including teaching you to administer your own medications.
This portion of the egg freezing timeline—from the initial appointment to the start of the cycle—is the most variable, because it’s up to you, your needs, and your schedule. How long it takes depends on how quickly you’re looking to get the process underway.
Have you completed most of the testing before, and want to start the process at the beginning of your next menstrual cycle? This could take as little as a week or two. Are you thinking about freezing your eggs, but you’re going on a month-long trip to Europe in a few weeks? First of all, lucky you—secondly, we can help you plan to jump into the egg freezing process after you return.
Egg freezing timeline step 2: the cycle
The second step in the egg freezing timeline—the cycle—is much more consistent, because it’s based not on your schedule, but on your ovaries’.
The cycle begins on the second day of your period. For the next 9–12 days of the egg freezing timeline, you’ll be prescribed injection medications that will prompt your body to produce multiple eggs, instead of the single egg it usually produces each cycle. Your progress will be monitored with 5–7 short office visits to check in on how your body is responding to the medication and to fine-tune your cycle schedule.
An important note: you can—and the majority of women do—live and work normally during your egg freezing cycle.
Your monitoring visits will be scheduled in the early morning, before work, or at another time that’s convenient to your schedule. Your medications are taken once a day, and your healthcare team will work with you to find a time that’s optimal for your medication and for your life. During this portion of the egg freezing timeline, you should limit vigorous exercise, alcohol, caffeine, and have protected sex. But generally, your lifestyle will be more or less the same as usual.
As for side effects: the majority of women—about 75%—don’t experience side effects. For the 25% that do, it’s typically mild stuff (think PMS-like symptoms such as bloating, headaches, or breast tenderness) that doesn’t affect their ability to go about their lives normally.
Egg freezing timeline step 3: the egg retrieval
The egg freezing timeline culminates in the final step: the egg retrieval, a quick outpatient procedure during which the eggs your ovaries have been working hard on are collected and frozen. The retrieval itself takes only 15–20 minutes, and uses a super-thin needle guided by ultrasound to reach the eggs inside the ovaries—no scars, no stitches. As far as surgeries go, it’s pretty noninvasive. The eggs are immediately brought to the lab, where the mature, high quality eggs are flash-frozen.
This is the only point during the egg freezing timeline at which we recommend that you take a day off from work.
Because you’ll be under sedation during the retrieval, you’ll probably feel a bit groggy afterwards. That’s why we ask you to have a friend or family member pick you up from the procedure and stay by your side, and why we recommend taking the day off and staying out of the driver’s seat for 24 hours. You might have a little cramping or light bleeding, too, but most women are back in action the next day.
So how long does egg freezing take? All in all, the cycle and the retrieval typically last less than two weeks.
Egg freezing timeline step 4: looking forward?
Now that your eggs are in a deep freeze, what’s your next step? Scientifically speaking, there’s no limit on how long your eggs can stay frozen—when you thaw them, they’ll be just as healthy as they were when they were frozen. So what you do next is up to you.