4 Women on What It Was Really Like to Freeze Their Eggs
If it seems like everyone is freezing their eggs these days, you're not imagining things. From Olivia Munn to the singer Halsey to a slew of former Bachelor contestants, egg freezing has become a frequent topic among A-listers—and if you're a woman in your late 20s or 30s, probably your social circle, too.
"More women in our society are pursuing professional and personal goals, and therefore delaying the time to build a family," says Francisco Arredondo, MD, a medical advisory board member at the fertility benefits management company Progyny. "The egg preservation technology empowers them to be able to pursue both their professional and family dreams."
The procedure, which involves retrieving and then freezing a woman's eggs for future pregnancy, "is definitely becoming more common," says Lisa Grossman Becht, MD, a physician at Columbia University Fertility Center and assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. "Over the past few years, the number of [egg freeze] cycles has increased by over 15 times."
Dr. Becht tells us that ever since the American Society of Reproductive Medicine removed egg freezing's "experimental" designation in 2012, more women have started inquiring about their ovarian reserves. "With that information, they are better able to make an informed decision on whether or not egg freezing is right for them," Dr. Becht says.
Experts stress that egg freezing isn't necessarily for everyone. A big consideration is cost—it can be prohibitively expensive, between $10,000 and $15,000, plus annual storage fees—and isn't covered by all insurance plans. And while freezing your eggs can help boost your odds of having a family later on, it doesn't guarantee a future pregnancy. For these reasons, the decision can be a difficult and emotional one.
Wondering what the egg freezing process is really like? We asked four women who have undergone the procedure to share their experiences.
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Lisa Rachel Snyder, froze her eggs at 33
"There was something about the number 34 as it approached that suddenly became really real. When I turned 33, I felt like I had all the time in the world—and then all of a sudden, a few months before my 34th birthday, I was single. I know 100% that I want kids, and I don’t know when a man is going to come into my life, so I started thinking about it. As soon as I made the decision to do it, so much of the anxiety went away. I was like, ‘Okay, this feels like this is my intuition’s way of saying to go for it.’
So, I went through with it, and it was really intense. The whole process, there are so many unknowns. The doctor can tell you your [ovarian reserve] levels but can’t give you any idea of how many eggs you can get and if they’ll be healthy. Even now, I froze my eggs but I don’t know if any of them are healthy. It's this lesson in trust.
I’m not good with needles, so the process of injecting myself was a thing that I had to get over very quickly. And then the hormones really messed with me—I don't weigh myself, but I probably gained 15 pounds. The lower part of my belly was so huge. The rest of my body seemed kind of normal, but I was just so bloated that I felt really uncomfortable. The bloating didn't really go away for about a month and a half, which, I think from talking to other people who have done it, was longer than most.
The procedure was actually the simplest part. It was 15 minutes; they knocked me out and my dad was there to pick me up. For me, the most intense part was the hormone injections, and what [the process] physically did to my body and also emotionally what it did to me.
I had an eating disorder for 20 years. About three years ago, I felt healed, thanks to yoga and mindfulness practice; I’m starting a company where I’m helping people work through their issues with food and body image. A year ago I would have said, ‘Yeah, I completely healed my eating disorder and I have no more issues with it.’ While I can honestly say that’s true with the way I behave around food, getting that bloated really activated my body image issues again. That really humbled me. It didn't change my behavior, but it really affected the way I felt about myself. I became really self-conscious about the way I look in general, and that hasn't fully gone away. It’s a new thing I’m kind of working through.
But I have no regrets. I’m so glad I did it. It literally has freed me. I was dating and feeling desperate about meeting someone, and I don’t feel that way at all anymore. I feel really empowered. I feel like I took matters into my own hands. I’m really devoted to my work at the moment, and I’m not really thinking about men in an obsessive way. It really did give me that peace of mind, which to me made it all worth it."
Jennifer Kattula, froze her eggs at 37
"Freezing my eggs was an 'insurance policy' for me when I was still single. I knew I wanted to be a mom some day, but it wasn't clear if that would happen with a partner or maybe on my own. It gave me so much peace of mind, and I never felt like I had to rush the process once I met my husband.
You're pretty out of it on the day of the retrieval because of the anesthesia. After that, you need to take it easy for a few days because your ovaries are still quite large. I felt completely recovered in about two weeks, when the bloating fully subsided. I've [now] done two rounds of egg freezing and one fresh IVF cycle and froze the remaining embryos. We call them 'embies,' and we still have a few left. Without IVF, I had about a 5% chance of getting pregnant naturally. For someone who has dreamed of being a mom, that's not the number you want to hear.
I think for many women, freezing your eggs can take the pressure off of the 'ticking clock' that so many people refer to, especially if you meet your partner later in life or want to focus on your career. The ability to have more options around becoming a parent and to be in control of the timing felt very empowering to me."
Tracy*, froze her eggs at 32
"I'd been thinking about freezing my eggs for a few years because Mr. Right hadn't come into my life yet, and building a career is incredibly rewarding. I had a few friends in their 40s who struggled with fertility, which was eye-opening. They encouraged me to take control over my fertility and freeze my eggs if I could afford it and find the time to do it.
I spoke with my primary care doctor [in Manhattan, where I live] who didn't give me much support other than referring me to a local fertility clinic. Then I met with Dr. Meredith Provost at the Indiana Fertility Institute in Indiana, where I'm from. She gave me great advice about my options for freezing my eggs and the staff seemed to take this process personally, which made me feel at ease.
The process took about two and a half weeks. The most intimidating part for me was all of the needles, but you quickly learn to get over it. The first week felt okay, but the second week ranged from slightly uncomfortable to very painful at moments. I quickly learned that 'pregnancy brain' is real–your mind gets so foggy on all the hormones. I ran into several glass doors, which was fun!
Recovery was pretty easy. I felt really bad coming out of the procedure, but I went home, took a nap, and by evening I felt much better. I waited 24 hours before I flew back to Manhattan, so by that time I felt fine. I eased back into running, but it didn't take long to feel normal.
Once I froze my eggs, I felt a huge sense of relief. It's empowering to make life decisions, big or little, knowing that I'm not necessarily tied to a biological clock. There's already so much pressure on women to have children or a career, but having frozen eggs is a nice insurance policy for whatever decision I want in the future.
I don't know when I'll use my eggs. Everyone asks me if I have a 'go-date' by which I'll decide to have a baby. But for me I don't want any kind of deadline like that in my life. When I'm ready, I'll know."
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Anna*, froze her eggs at 31
"Honestly, a lot of my friends were doing it, so it seemed like a good idea. I’m really busy right now with my career and I’m just not sure when I’m going to think about kids; they’re not on my radar at the moment. My friends seemed to have a good experience with it. I had a consult and then once I made the decision it [happened] pretty fast. I would say from when I met [the doctor] and decided to do it, it was probably a little more than a month.
I was nervous, but it wasn't that big of a deal. The hardest thing was having someone to take me home after the procedure—I didn’t want to tell too many people I was doing it. But the procedure itself was really fast. After, initially you’re kind of bloated, I didn't really anticipate that. You feel like you’re on your period for 10 days, and I was a little tired. I was cramp-y maybe for that afternoon, a little bit of the night, but I could have definitely gone right back to work afterwards, although I didn't. I went back to work the next morning.
I feel really good about the fact that I have eggs frozen and a sense of security in a way. I know it’s not necessarily a perfect insurance policy and anything could happen, but it took some of the anxiety out of getting older and having other things I wanted to do before thinking of having kids, or even getting into a relationship. I’m pretty focused on myself right now, and this puts me at ease.
I do wish that it was covered more by insurance. I think that can be a barrier for some people. People should be prepared to spend more money than they think on this. And [I wish] people would talk about it more so it could be more normalized. Where I work, in finance, I’m sure everyone is doing it, but no one is talking about it.
I have friends who are doing it who are much younger, and that’s great. The ticking clock in my brain is what really made me do it."
*Indicates names have been changed