Many people have heard others say that they are going to "freeze their eggs"—but really, what does that mean?
The process, more technically referred to as "oocyte preservation" is when an individual chooses to undergo a treatment to remove eggs (oocytes) from her ovaries and have them stored/reserved for use at a later time.
Because of the pronounced decline in fertility as individuals age, by removing some oocytes and freezing them (vitrifying, the technical term), it allows people to come back and use them at a later point in time when or if they are ready to start a family.
The process of undergoing an egg freezing cycle is very similar to the process that someone who is undergoing IVF goes through.
It entails an approximately 2 week process in which you will self-administer medications to help you slowly (but surely!) grow eggs from within your ovaries. Over the course of that time, your doctor will perform serial ultrasounds (and some blood draws) to monitor the progress of how your eggs are growing.
When your doctor feels your follicles are of the appropriate size, you have a "trigger shot" administered which induces the eggs to mature. A procedure which we call the egg retrieval aka TVA (TransVaginal Aspiration) is done (usually under anesthesia), and the eggs are removed.
The day of the procedure you will learn how many eggs were retrieved, and a little bit later (maybe the next day), you will find out how many were mature and how many were frozen.
Overall, patients do really well, but understanding the process involved and getting a sense of the timeline and the number of visits you'll need to make, and where, is important when planning your schedule and life.
Feeling prepared for the process is key, and in my opinion, is the best way to ensure that the egg freezing process is a positive experience.
By "freezing them," the success rates are correlated with the age at which they are frozen (not the age at which the person comes back to use them). Meaning, if someone freezes their eggs at 30 and comes back to use them at the age of 40—they are working with the eggs of a 30-year-old, and thus have a higher chance of getting pregnant than if they tried at the age of 40.
More questions? This might be a good time to consider chatting with your OB/GYN or a neighborhood fertility specialist about it.
Not ready to talk to a doctor? No worries, there's no pressure—BUT consider talking to any friends, co-workers or family members that have been through it. You'd be surprised as to how open many of them might be open to talking with you about it!