Egg Freezing Behind the Scenes: Part 1 of 2

If you’ve read our prior blog posts, like So You’re Thinking About Freezing Your Eggs or The Beginner’s Guide to Egg Freezing, you should have an introduction to the egg freezing process, why you should freeze your eggs, and when to do so. Today, one of our Ollipsis team members who recently completed an egg freezing cycle of her own will take you behind the scenes and share what egg freezing is really like!

Research & Preparation

Having worked in women’s health and at Ollipsis Fertility, I knew that I wanted to freeze my eggs at some point this year because:

  1. My partner and I do not plan to have children for another 3-5 years and we’re 29-30 now, so that means by the time we do, I may be at an age where my ovarian reserve has declined.
  2. I didn’t want my biological clock to rush any life plans and we want to have children when we’re really ready for them.
  3. We saw egg freezing as a back up plan for the future, if we aren’t able to conceive naturally; we’ll have young, healthy eggs ready for us.

I must admit, despite working in this field, actually selecting a fertility clinic and figuring out what I wanted from the process was hard to manage. I used FertilityIQ to check out physician ratings and read about the experiences of others to make my list of 3-5 clinics I wanted to interview. I didn’t end up making many initial consults with multiple clinics because each consult will cost you $100-$300 out of pocket (though sometimes clinics charge less for a virtual consult without the testing being done in the initial appointment). I was lucky that a friend had recently done her cycle with RMA Fertility NorCal, which was a clinic on my list. She had a great experience, so I went with them too without doing more interviews.

A question that you all asked on our Instagram was:

“How much does it cost & does any insurance companies help?”

So let’s get right to it. The cost varies significantly based on where you decide to do your cycle. Some of the fertility startups like Kindbody, can start at $6,500 (with the consult, medication not included), whereas other clinics are over $10,000 but may include the procedure. When doing your diligence, you can always call each clinic to ask them to specifically list what’s included in their pricing and what’s not so you can better compare. My experience was $8,000 not including a separate charge for anesthesia during the procedure, and the medications came out to be $2,000-3,000 (via Alto Pharmacy).

The insurance coverage question is tough to answer, because each state in the US has their own laws about what type of fertility services are covered and not all insurance companies cover the same amount. Generally, egg freezing is seen as an elective procedure, so it is not typically covered unless you’ve been diagnosed by your OBGyn or reproductive specialist with infertility issues. However, some companies have a fertility benefit (e.g. Progyny, WINFertility) under which egg freezing may be covered partially or in full.

This is definitely a big financial decision, as well as a personal health decision. I ultimately did not end up pursuing any of the financing options the clinic partnered with (e.g. Future Family and others) because the interest rates they quoted were egregious (8-10%)! We decided to pay for everything up front, which we are lucky to be able to do. I would definitely urge others to save up before you decide to pursue egg freezing, or look into other affordable ways, such as the program that Ollipsis Fertility offers.

To prepare for my initial meeting, I researched some questions I should ask the doctor, but he ended up covering most of it in his introduction. I appreciated the fact that he walked through what to expect and helped me understand the statistics (we can get into this in another post). I was looking for a responsive care team that would communicate and educate me along the way, so I decided to continue my journey with RMA NorCal.

The First 3 Days of Egg Freezing

After my doctor ran some labs on my blood samples and did the intra-vaginal ultrasound to count my follicles in my ovaries, they were able to give me instructions on the medications I need for the first few days of my cycle. They saw 12 follicles (remember, each follicle has 1 egg), which means that they could expect a maximum of 12 eggs to be retrieved. This was good news, as my numbers were typical and average for a woman of my age.

All of my medication, syringes and all!
All of my medication, syringes and all!

And then my medications got delivered and WOW was I nervous and shocked. ALL THIS, for just 10 days?!

Thankfully, my clinical team sent me lots of instructions with videos on how to administer the shots to myself. Typically, you can also schedule an appointment with the nurse to have her show you in person by due to the timing of when my medication arrived and when I was supposed to start my injections, I wasn’t able to. It honestly wasn’t too hard to learn, and I followed each step very carefully to make sure I wasn’t wasting any resources (and didn’t have to poke myself with a needle more times than necessary).

What is the egg freezing medication?

Does it hurt?

Some of you also asked these questions above. The medications vary based on your customized treatment plan. However, there are a few different categories of medications:

  1. Medications to stimulate egg development: Some of the common drugs include Follistim, Gonal, Menopur, or other types of HCG.
  2. Medications to prevent premature ovulation: Since in your normal menstrual cycle, the egg will get released by the ovary, we want the eggs to stay inside the follicles and the ovaries, in order to be retrieved. Medications such as Leuprolide Acetate, Cetrotide or Ganirelix Acetate perform this function.
  3. Medications to stimulate final egg maturity (the trigger shot): There are quite a few different kinds of trigger shots (HCG, leuprolide acetate trigger, chronic gonadotropin injection, and more). They are prescribed towards the end of your cycle 2 days before your retrieval day — we’ll get into this more in Part 2.

It wasn’t really the needles that bothered me, it was the anticipation of having to stick yourself with it. Most of the shots didn’t hurt, but one of the medications really stung when you’re injecting it, so you really have to power through. If you’ve ever gotten certain vaccines in the arm that really stings while it’s administered, that’s what this felt like — only you’re the one who needs to continue pushing the plunger in the syringe despite the pain. The 1st night I gave myself the injections I didn’t do it well, so it left a big bruise, but that never happened as I went on with it — signs that I got better throughout the cycle I think!

Giving myself shots, here we go!Iced the injection site to numb the area, took lots of deep breaths. The Menopur is the worst, so I did that first to get it over with & then did the smaller Gonal pen that’s shown here in the front (it’s like an insulin pen with a very thin small needle).

Although the shots didn’t hurt too much, I really didn’t enjoy the process. There’s a biological instinct that takes over when you’re holding a sharp object about to stick yourself with it that almost fights that action, so getting over this psychologically was the toughest part for me. I did feel this wave of anxiety and general nervousness at 8:30PM every night, 30 minutes before I was supposed to do my shots nightly. It does feel more like a routine after the first 3 days, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t dread it.

After the first 3 days, I went back for an appointment so they could do another ultrasound and check my progress. In just 3 days, my follicles were noticeably larger! The feeling of seeing your hard work paying off was really exciting and outweighed the stress and anxiety I felt with each injection.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I share details on the days leading up to the retrieval day and reflect on my experience!