#148 | Choosing Egg Freezing: The Process, Cost, Benefits and Rationale

February 16, 2022

Today we are joined by Diana Marks, a social media influencer and coach, who is deeply passionate about bringing awareness to women on how and why to consider egg freezing for fertility preservation. If this is a topic you've been curious about, today's episode will answer your questions from, "When should someone consider egg freezing," to "How much does egg freezing cost," to "What is the emotional journey of going through this process?"  With more women choosing to start families later in life - or wanting the option to do so - egg freezing is a rapidly evolving technology that is growing in popularity. And for Diana Marks, it was the logical decision that brought the peace of mind she was looking for.


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View Episode Transcript

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Hi, I'm Diana Marks. I'm a social media influencer and an agency founder and I'm going to talk about egg freezing today. I just wanted to say thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited to be a part of this podcast and bring awareness is such an important topic.

So Diana, why don't we start with you telling us explain for us off the bat, why it's such an important topic? Well, this is a good question. The thing is, it's the first time in the history of humankind when we're women have choices, right. So this is a time where we can actually take control of our fertility journeys and have some sort of insurance for the future. No, it's not 100%, guaranteed, like anything in life, but it's a big chance that it will help you in the future. So that's why it's so important. Not a lot of people even know about it still to this day. And I think it's important for women to know that this procedure exists. And when I learned about it, it really changed my world. Because obviously, as women, we have such a pressure of biological clock. And the fact that you can actually put it on pause and take care of your life and make sure you live your life without worrying about you know, whether you you will have an opportunity to have children in the future. It's so important. What are

some of the main reasons that a woman would want to choose to freeze her eggs? Well,

there's social reasons. And there's obviously medical reasons as well. And a lot of women used to do it. And they initially started as a medical procedure, right, because a lot of women who would go, for example, through cancer treatments, would be recommended to go through something like egg freezing to make sure they have the opportunity to have children in the future, in case that cancer treatment interferes with their fertility. And now over time, it became a social procedure as well, where people do it for social reasons where they want to delay that their pregnancy, due to you know where they're at in life. As women in general, as people in general, we get married later in life. And while it doesn't affect men, it really affects women, because obviously, we don't think about having children until we're married. And then when we're married, it might be a little bit too late for a body. So that being said, for social reasons, I think it's actually a huge, huge breakthrough in the industry. Because now women can concentrate on their careers, and work as long as they want until they have children and not worry about not having this opportunity down the line when the time is right when they found the right partner, and stuff like that. And also, for the choice of the partner, a lot of women settle on the partner. And I think this procedure in general gives them freedom, and not feel pressured that they have to settle at a specific time in the life just for the sake of having children.

Is there any point at which it's too late to use your frozen eggs? I'm just really by women.

So actually not anymore. Initially, there were some articles that said that they're like 10 years lifespan of your eggs, but I just recently went through the procedure and they literally told me that I can use my eggs, whatever. So that's amazing.

Diana, why don't you tell us a little bit about what egg freezing is and how it works.

So egg freezing is essentially a process of freezing your your eggs at a current age with the purpose of using those eggs in the future. Right so I personally did egg freezing when I was 31. I'm currently 32 years old. So that means if I want to get pregnant, let's say at 38 I can use my frozen eggs at 31 and they're going to be much healthier and much more. I'll have much more chances of of getting pregnant pregnant with those eggs rather than my 38 year old eggs that I will have at that time in my body. So over time the quality of fertility In women changes, so the older they get, the less fertile they become. So that being said, for example, if somebody tries to get pregnant later in life, and they can't conceive for whatever reason, they can use the frozen eggs in order to help that process, because the frozen eggs that they froze earlier in life will be much higher quality and there will be much higher chances of them conceiving

you, let me make let me clarify that the later in life that you conceive, the more likely you are to have a genetic or chromosomal abnormality. So that risk factor goes up for sure, if you do conceive, and you don't have any genetic or chromosomal abnormalities, then there is no compromise in the quality of egg. It's really about the ability to get pregnant and a higher chance of having one of those anomalies in the conception process. Is that correct? So?

Yes, that's correct. That being said, if you have an opportunity to conceive on your own first, this is always what doctors recommend. So firstly, check the quality of your eggs, you know, they check if you're able to conceive on your own, and then you go after that goal, you know, and if that doesn't happen, you have an insurance. That's why they call egg freezing an insurance policy of using your younger eggs in order to conceive.

That's an interesting point. So if you are 40 years old, and you have eggs that you froze at 25, would a woman want to start right off with her 25 year old egg? Or is she going to be encouraged to try to conceive at 40 on her own um, I think, as of right now, Dr. still recommend trying to conceive on your own first, because you know, that's natural, and then only if they have problems, because that's the thing too, a lot of women don't realize that they will have fertility issues, right. So a lot of times we think I'm healthy, you know, I work out, so I'm not going to have any problem getting pregnant. And those two things are completely unrelated. But nobody talks about it. So nobody knows for sure. That doesn't mean that you know, all women will have will go through something like this, but there will be women that will have fertility issues as early as 35. And that is a great opportunity for them to use those frozen eggs and actually conceive, because the problem with the whole fertility issue is women don't want to talk about it, until they actually are in the process of getting pregnant. And that is why this topic is so important to discuss right now and to bring awareness to because these are the things you need to take care of before you actually arrive to that point in life.

Diana, I have two questions that came up for me when I was listening to you. The first is, I guess, no question, basically, do they know with certainty that the eggs a woman has frozen is genetically optimal?

Yes, they do. They actually check. They don't freeze eggs that are not going to help them conceive, you know, so they actually go through the quality check first to make sure that eggs are healthy. I myself personally was a lucky one apparently, where all eggs that they extracted were frozen. But it doesn't always happen. The majority of cases, they extract the number of eggs, and then they go through the process where they check the healthy, you know, and then they freeze the healthy ones. So that being said, they do go through some quality check. And of course not all of these eggs will be fertile down the line. Because when they connect these eggs with embryos, they want to make embryo sorry, they want to make sure that they actually will produce a baby and they say one in again. This is statistics, I'm not sure like the actual amount, but one in eight to 10 eggs will actually produce one healthy baby of the eggs that you frozen one in only one in 10. Well, yes. Oh my goodness. Okay, I didn't know that. And then sometimes women end up with quadruplets.

Okay. And then to go back to my my second initial question. You made a comment. That was we were all thinking like, What if you fall in love and get married at 38? Or 40? Why does Why is the doctor even a part of it? Why don't you just go have sex and have a good time? And why is there this stage of Well, the doctor will check you to kind of give you the thumbs up to use your own eggs and just have sex and have a good time and see what happens. Can you explain more about that? Because that confused me a little bit too.

I think if you didn't have frozen eggs, that's what meant the majority of people do you know so I don't think there's any sort of restriction on that end. But that being said, you know, of course there's like a way to check your fertility and that's the thing too, it's really about being incautious. It's called preventative. The taking preventative steps, right? So you don't have to do that. You can, of course, try to conceive on your own. But then if you go to the doctor, you'll just find out, what are your chances of conceiving on your own? What are your chances of having a healthy baby, because at the end of the day, it's not really about conceiving, it's actually about delivering the healthy baby.

In my experience, most women will try on their own for six or 12 months before going for any type of fertility, assess absolute, I suppose if you've already been in the process of freezing your eggs, and you have a good rapport with a doctor, you might decide if you freeze your eggs at 25. And now at 40, you're ready, you might at that point, go for a preliminary scan or something to see how your big health is at that time. But most people just sort of give it six or 12 months of trying on their own. And if they don't conceive, then they start this process.

Exactly. Yes. Thanks for clarifying that. And I still think the more natural things are, the better is just the the fact that we have an option like that. It's tremendous, you know, and obviously, that's another important point that you brought up the fact that you already have a doctor to go to, because a lot of women, when they try to conceive at 40, they have no idea where to start, you know, so they just try to have a baby and see how it goes, you know, so because you froze your eggs, you in a lot of cases, you build a rapport with the doctor that did it and with the fertility clinics. So of course, now you have a place to go to, to actually get information to check yourself, you know, and that's how, how it's also helpful on that end, because now you have this sort of facility where you can actually seek advice from this is the kind of area where a woman really has to know herself. And I have this conversation with clients a lot in some related areas, you really just have to know yourself. And you know, on the one hand listening to you, it's I can see the comfort and how you want the information gives me the information, tell me what I have to work with. And then you have women, I'm guessing I would be more in this category, who might have a propensity toward overthinking and having anxiety. And if you don't try to get pregnant on your own, if you freeze your eggs, let's say at 30, you get married at 38, you go find out from the doctor, well, you have about a 50% chance, I mean, I would lay awake in bed with my eyes wide open every night thinking oh my god, oh, my God. And you just have to know yourself. I think that's why this buffer period of trying on your own is good. But it just reminds me of how many countless couples try for years to adopt, because they haven't been able to conceive. And as soon as that adoption goes through, and they relax, and they celebrate, they get pregnant, and they end up with two children. It's a beautiful little scenario. But it seems to happen all the time. So it's like this for anyone listening, you know, there's just no guide to these things, it's you just have to know yourself, well, what's gonna bring me the most comfort and least anxiety and it could go on either end with this, it's kind of like a mental thing, too. There's a lot of mental health that comes from it because you feel different. After the procedure, I've read so many, obviously, I was worried a little bit myself, I was scared of doing that procedure. So after the procedure, everybody says the same thing, they feel relieved, and they feel much more confident in the future. Because it's exactly what it is. It's an insurance for you. So that doesn't mean that now when you're 40, you have to go, you know and use your eggs, but you know that you have that option. And just knowing that you have that option, whether you will see that fertility doctor ever in your life or not, will play a huge part in your, in your journey of conceiving in general. As you mentioned earlier, it's all about not all about but a big part of it is your mental state, right. So like freezing gives you this ability to know that no matter what it is, you have options. And this is huge. This is a real game changer.

So let's get into some of the details of like, how to make this decision. How is a woman to know at 23 or 28? That is time to freeze her eggs like what factors is she looking at in her life to make that decision? And what are the barriers to making that decision? Or what are the risks that might come along with making that decision?

Overall, I think down the line as as we move into the more techy future. I would be very happy to see every woman that freezes her eggs at as early as possible. Right now we're doing it based on the age where we find out about it and obviously the financial availability right so it is a very costly procedure and this is a biggest barrier for entry for this procedure. Right

Santa How much is it?

So it is roughly so if you Uh, every clinic is different, you know, in different states, there's different prices. But I would say the minimum price would be from 12,000 to $20,000. Right. So it's like a range. And there's also medical fees for the actual hormones and pills and everything that you'll have to take a big chunk of your bill as well. It's not, it's not cheap, let's put it that way. And that's the biggest issue right now. If you do it early in life, you're obviously much more fertile. At that time, therefore, you will freeze many more eggs. So you'll have to do it only once, because some women actually go through egg freezing several times, just to make sure that they froze enough eggs for the future. So the earlier the better. And also your body is going to handle it much easier just because while it's not a very, it's not a like two series of a procedure, it's still very invasive in terms of you obviously going through hormonal therapy your body produces, on average, your body produces one egg per cycle. During the procedure itself, you produce many more eggs, so you're obviously on hormones in order to produce more eggs. And then there's a small surgery involved at the end where they extract those eggs. So physically, it's much easier to handle if you're younger, because like I said, right now, we tend to only react to problems that we have down the line when we try to conceive and so much better mentally and physically and emotionally to have this backup option as early as possible and to have it handled.

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We have to talk for a minute about what happens with the eggs and how many are being stimulated and how many are being extracted and what these hormones are doing. Because it's it's very curious to me, and I'm sure everybody would like to know. I mean, a woman produces when she first gets her period, she produces one egg, on average per month, until she reaches menopause. And women are born with a certain number of eggs at the time of birth. And that is all they get. So when we're taking these hormones, we are stimulating these eggs to mature in advance of when they normally would. So that's why you have to take these hormones in advance. So how many eggs are they trying to stimulate? And how many eggs are typically removed in a procedure for to be frozen?

Everybody's different. I was trying to get this question when I was going, you know through the hormonal stimulation. I'm like how many eggs Am I doing this for you know, so they will never give you like the exact number. Obviously every woman is different. Every body is different. So for example, I personally apparently set a record you know, like so my doctor actually called me an overachiever because I produced 24 eggs, but that is apparently a lot but the funny thing is when I woke up from the surgery, the first question I asked I was asked how many eggs do we freeze? And then they asked how many babies can make these things. So apparently on average, a woman would freeze 10 eggs per stimulation. That's why sometimes women go through two or three Egg freezing procedures to make sure that they freeze enough eggs. And that's another important point to bring up here because I froze my eggs at 31. So the older women get, the less eggs, they'll be able to freeze, right. So because I did it, it's not really early, but more on the earlier side, it allowed me to actually go through just one cycle and have enough eggs for the future, whatever that might be. But I would assume, if you're in the early 20s, you would probably probably produce many more eggs than that. The another reason to is, so let's assume you reach a point of like 55, or 60, you reach your menopause, you'd never have kids had kids before, and you decide to have kids, you can have a surrogate with your own eggs that you froze at 20, you know, 30, or even 40, right? So that is a big part of it as well, where you might not give birth yourself, but it will still be genetically your baby. So that's why we're calling it insurance. Because even if you go beyond your fertile time, you still are able to have kids, there's still options out there to have your own kids, because you did egg freezing.

So I'm sure we could talk for a very long time. We have a lot of questions on this. And it's a really interesting topic. But we want to get into your emotional experience a little bit. What was what was this process like for you? And what has it done for you now? Like, where do you see yourself with it?

So when I learned about the procedure, it blew my mind. I'm like, Oh, my God, I can't believe there's an option out there. And I need to jump on it. But I was looking for options for solutions. You know, on the book clinics, you go to how does this work? I was very scared for the physical aspect. That's why I stoled for two years. And then that when, you know, obviously with a pandemic, also time goes by really fast. So you're like, wow, two years passed by and nothing changed. I realized that if I don't do it now, it'll be it will be another five years, you know, so that's how I made that decision. But when I went through the entire process, I became more public about it in general, because it's not as hard as I imagined it would be. Yes, there are hormonal stimulations. Yes, you're going to have to inject needles in your stomach. Right? So it's, it's a part of it. And yes, there is a quick surgery after I'm not taking away from those little aspects. But in retrospect, first of all, it's only two weeks, right, the whole like process of starting your stimulations. So overall, in retrospect, those two weeks really didn't feel like it was a lot of it was like very emotional, or very heavy on me. First of all, it's a very funny feeling, because you're not really pregnant. But you know that you're creating those eggs that you might actually have babies from in the future. So it's a very interesting situation you're in because you kind of treat yourself as if you're pregnant, right. So you're like, taking more care of yourself, you're more patient with yourself as well. So those two weeks are very special. And then in terms of the surgery, obviously, everybody's scared of the surgery because of the word surgery, right that you could call it surgery. But the actual extraction process, like I mentioned to you earlier, is literally like if you think about it, like from that simplistic way of putting it, they like vacuum out your eggs, you know, they're not cutting you anywhere. And they just put you to sleep for the comfort of it right so that you don't actually go through both like the physical discomfort and the mental discomfort as

they're going through your cervix through the into the serve exactly, every now is our abdomen.

Exactly not and there's no cutting involved at all. And you recover fairly quickly, just because I, they, I produced many more eggs than anticipated. Apparently, my recovery was a little bit longer. And just so that I put it in perspective longer is like two three days. Right. So a lot of women are able to go to work on the next day, right after surgery. Right.

What is involved in recovery? Is it cramping?

cramping? Yeah, it's just some like abdominal pain, cramping, you know, and you're bloated. That's a big aspect of it, too. So sometimes people say that you'll get bloated during the hormonal stimulation, which is also pretty normal. I personally didn't even go through that. So my bloating started after the extraction. And of course your body just produced, you know, a huge number of eggs, you know, it takes some time to fully recover and get back to normal. The way I painted it in my head was much more invasive and scary, versus the actual procedure and the actual process to go back to your question. on how it affected me mentally, it's, it's a very interesting feeling because obviously you didn't give birth, right, you just froze your eggs. But I'm assuming it's like multiplied by 10. When you actually give birth, you know what happened. But your mental state is you're much more confident in yourself in your situation, wherever you are in life, and you mentally much more relaxed. And that's why I think it's also very important. Again, going back to the mental aspect, whether I will use my eggs in the future or I don't, doesn't really matter. It's just a matter of I know that I have that option available to me. So now I have no societal pressure on any angle, in order to, you know, move on and start my family early and not when I want to. And I would definitely suggest for everybody to go through something like this because ever since doing this procedure myself, I feel so happy and so liberated and I know that no matter what, I have full freedom of personal choices and I can live my life and live in the moment.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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