The uterus is capable of carrying a pregnancy long after the ovary runs out of eggs. The Northwell egg freezing program allows you to “pause the biological clock” so you can concentrate on other facets of your life. Preserving your eggs should reduce the concern you might experience regarding your reproductive future and allow you to start a family at the right time, when you feel ready.
In the past, there was little success with egg freezing due to the relatively high water content of eggs and the formation of ice crystals that damaged DNA. A newer freezing method called vitrification is now routinely done. It allows for better protection of the egg against DNA damage from freezing, and it’s associated with excellent warming survival rates.
Egg freezing process
The actual egg freezing cycle will take about two weeks. Here’s what you can expect.
- Preparation: You will first meet with one of our physicians for a consultation to discuss the egg freezing process. You will have a physical examination, pelvic ultrasound, blood tests that include ovarian reserve testing, and you will sign a consent form. All of your questions about the procedure will be answered at this time.
- Ovarian stimulation: You will receive injections of fertility drugs for about 10 days. You will be monitored with blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds.
- Trigger shot: You will receive a trigger shot (Lupron and/or hCG) to help your eggs reach final maturation prior to the egg retrieval.
- Egg retrieval: About 34 to 36 hours following the trigger shot, your eggs will be retrieved vaginally in our procedure suite using ultrasound guidance. The procedure is short (typically less than 30 minutes) and is done under general intravenous anesthesia. You will have a short stay in the recovery room (approximately one hour) prior to going home.
- Egg freezing: Your eggs will be frozen the day of the procedure and remain frozen until you decide to use them.
- Embryo freezing: If you have a partner, your eggs will first be fertilized with his sperm to create embryos, and the embryos will be frozen.
Frequently asked questions
How do I determine if freezing my eggs is right for me?
Egg freezing is a very personal decision. There are many women who may benefit from this procedure, including:
- Women in the reproductive age without a partner
- Women who wish to delay childbearing
- Women in a long-distance relationship
- Women diagnosed with cancer (egg freezing offers a chance to preserve eggs prior to chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, which can temporarily or permanently impact fertility)
- Women who do not wish to freeze their embryos for religious and/or moral reasons
- Women with a family history of early menopause
At what age should I consider elective egg freezing?
We encourage women to be proactive about their reproductive health. If you’re a woman in her late twenties or early thirties with no partner, or are unsure of the future of your current relationship, you may consider freezing your eggs. Egg freezing can be thought of as “reproductive insurance.” While no amount of eggs can guarantee a baby in the future, if you freeze enough eggs, you will have a high likelihood of conception at a later date. We encourage you not to wait too long to think about egg freezing; the benefit of egg freezing in securing your reproductive future declines with age.
Once I am ready to get pregnant, how long will the egg thawing procedure take, and what does it involve?
Preparing your uterus for pregnancy takes several weeks. Once you’re ready to have an embryo transfer, we will thaw out the eggs and fertilize them with your partner’s sperm or donor sperm. Embryos resulting from this procedure will be watched in the lab for three to five days. You will then have an embryo transfer, which takes just a few minutes. Extra embryos will be frozen for your future use.
How long can my eggs remain frozen?
The viability of your eggs does not decrease with time. However, our program has set the age of 50 as the maximum age to get an embryo transfer from a frozen-thawed egg.
What are my options if I have unused eggs?
We recommend that you take your time when making a decision regarding your frozen eggs. Once you’re certain that you no longer have use for the eggs, you may sign a form that allows the lab to discard them. Alternatively, there may be egg donation or research options available that we can discuss with you.
What is the cost of the procedure?
Costs vary significantly and may depend on insurance coverage.