I struggled for years to make up my mind about whether I should freeze my eggs. I told myself all the stories of why I shouldn't-hormones make you crazy, it's too expensive, "the one" is right around the corner, and so on-but I kept reaching the same conclusion: I want to be a mom one day. When I turned 39, I realized that my now-or-never moment was fast approaching, and so began the journey to freeze my eggs.
I've never shared anything so personal and allowed myself to be vulnerable like this before, but I decided to write about the process and share my experience on social media in the hope that it might help other women, too. My goal was initially to remove the stigmas, misconceptions, and overall lack of knowledge attached to this procedure, but in the end, what I got in return was so much more. Here's what the 12-day egg-freezing process is really like and the advice I wish I'd known from the start.
Not Everyone Will Support Your Choice
One aspect I didn't expect was the spectrum of emotions I felt on this journey. If you're considering freezing your eggs, get ready for euphoric highs and devastating lows. Some days, I felt so empowered and proud for taking control of my body, while others, I was swept with disappointment when someone close to me didn't react the way I'd hoped.
A reality they don't disclose in IVF articles or fertility forums is that not everyone will support your decision. Fertility treatments are still considered new and unconventional to some, and in my experience, you're likely to have a parent or friend who doesn't understand. When I told my mom and dad that I was going to freeze my eggs, they struggled to come to terms with the decision. Now, looking back, I realize it comes from the deepest source of love. They just needed more time and information.Laura Burchett
It's More Expensive Than You'd Think
It's no surprise that many fertility procedures are expensive, but friends are usually floored when I share the final cost for freezing my eggs. My total out-of-pocket expense was about $12,500. Roughly 60% went to doctors' fees, the retrieval, and egg storage for one year, and the other 40% was for the prescription drugs. None of this was covered by my current health insurance PPO.
My advice for others hoping to manage the medical costs is to only buy what you need for three-to-five day increments. As I had no insurance coverage, this allowed me to stagger expenses and ensure that nothing went to waste. I also went to manufacturer sites and downloaded coupons that amounted to hundreds of dollars in savings.
Just one week of medication included a Follistim pen, needles, Q-caps, a needle disposal receptacle, vials of powder, and alcohol swabs-which totaled $2621 per week. There are no generic versions of these medicines.
You'll Need a Strong Support Network
I'd never given myself shots before and was admittedly nervous, so I FaceTimed a friend who had undergone the same treatment. She was able to coach me through the process and offer support, which I so needed.
Mixing all the medications was daunting and my hands shook as I tried to administer the shots for the first time. Mixing Menopur, a hormonal medication, was definitely the most complicated and involved, as I had to combine two vials of powder with one vial of liquid and then change the needles. The Follistim pen was much easier-all I had to do was insert the medication and turn the dial to the number as I was instructed.
If you're concerned about pain, I strongly recommend icing your skin-I really helped numb the injection. There was some blood, like when you prick your finger with a needle, then a stinging sensation. I was really happy to have a friend there.
You'll Feel Swollen and Bloated-But Life Goes On
I went to work every day while doing hormone injections, and mentally and emotionally, I felt fine. I didn't have mood swings, but I did feel swollen and bloated. It felt like super-charged PMS with the same symptoms I'd normally experience, amplified.
It's recommended that you stop working out entirely on the day you administer the injections. That meant no runs and no weight training. Instead, I opted for easy walks and resigned to wearing sweatpants and watching Netflix-I wasn't going to pay thousands of dollars and risk ovarian torsion, a real side effect. Fortunately, this meant taking time out to just be, which is actually nice.
The Retrieval Process Takes 15 Minutes
The egg retrieval process, also known as transvaginal oocyte retrieval (TVOR), involves the removal of eggs from the ovary to be stored and later fertilized outside the body. When I arrived at the doctor's office, I was instructed to put all my belongings in the clinic locker and don a hospital gown and paper hat. I hugged my mom and went into the procedure room. The anesthesiologist explained the process and connected me to an IV. Then, I promptly slipped into a deep but brief 15-minute sleep.
When I came to, I was super groggy and tired, but overall, I felt surprisingly fine. My doctor told me they'd retrieved 11 eggs during the procedure, but that I wouldn't know how many were mature until the lab examined them. On the ride home, we stopped and got some Starbucks, and when I got back to my house, cramps kicked in and I alternated between Tylenol and Advil before drifting to sleep.
The next day was completely normal: I went back to work and felt fine. The doctor texted to say I had 11 eggs and nine of them were mature-it was a success!
Know That No Two Fertility Journeys Are the Same
The entire egg-freezing process only took 12 days, but the effects have lasted well beyond. It's made me feel a bit less pressured when dating, has connected me to others in a deeper, more authentic way by sharing my story, and has also made me an advocate for women's reproductive rights. Doing this has made me feel like I truly can have it all one day-a career and a family.
This experience has also made me realize the need for vast improvements in corporate health coverage-we need to introduce changes that reflect the growing needs and demands of a diverse workforce. It has empowered me to ensure that any woman thinking about freezing her eggs should have the resources and support to make the best and most informed decision for themselves and their bodies.
After the emotional highs and lows, countless injections, bruises, extraction, and serious financial cost, I'm often asked if it was it worth it. My response is unwavering: absolutely.
Thank you to the outstanding team at Glow Fertility for helping me (and others without coverage) with pricing, providing a counselor to answer questions, and for connecting me with my wonderful doctor at Fertility & Surgical Associates of California.