Egg freezing is waxing in popularity amongst young women right now. And I chose to freeze my eggs in June of 2019. While media and communications may persuade one to think this is a simple, no-brainer solution for women not yet ready to have a family, freezing your eggs is a BIG deal. And I’m here to tell you all the reasons why.
This whole thing is anything but chic with the toll it takes on your body.
My rationale on egg freezing
Women’s wellness is so important. And the more transparent information we have available to make informed decisions for our wellbeing the better. When I first considered doing this about a year and a half ago I thought “Wow, what a great solution. I’m 34, I should be healthy enough to get a lot of eggs. And this will lessen the societal burden weighing over my head and content dominating my social feeds composed of wedding pics, babies born and happy family moments (cue eye roll / yawn)”. But most importantly I thought I’d have my freedom back to just live the life I wanted right now.
Plus, nowadays it seems very chic to freeze your eggs – it’s en vogue. Let’s face it this – in this #MeToo / female empowerment era why wouldn’t it feel like a suiting choice for young women? Especially for those who are focused on building a career and enjoying the moment – not putting an emphasis on having a family or children immediately. We can control our fertility. And perhaps, have a child on our own with this option. So, as the perfect demographic fit, I choose to have this procedure. But if I only knew how much pain I would be in after the fact, it’s hard to say if I’d reconsider if I had the chance to do it again.
Every case is different so take this with a grain of salt. But here’s what you need to know before you choose to freeze your eggs. Here are the things that no one tells you.
Must love needles
Assuming you’ve read all the other information out there you should know, needles play a big part in this process. For two weeks I was injecting myself with 3 different hormones in my abdomen at 9 pm every night. You feel like a total moron at first dealing with syringes. I was terrified of them, and very confused even though the process was explained to me once at a mandatory session and then again by the pharmacist. In the end, what worked for me the first few days was slamming a glass of vino, singing a little song, and after watching the tutorial video 3x, going for it.
In the end, you become a little injection ninja that way in which you handle the needles (a new skill?), but I don’t miss it. You also need to visit your doctor every morning so that they can draw blood and monitor you. By day 3 your veins are bruised. So, an average of 4 needles jabbing you a day with 1 ultrasound up in your guts. Also, expect to have to hire a nurse for $150 to inject you in your ass for the big trigger 48 hours pre-retrieval if you are going this alone. Unless you’ve become so ninja you can do it yourself (not advised).
Operation day sucks
My blood pressure was 82/50 and I felt sick to my stomach post-op. I am normally a pretty tough cat, so this was all very weird and unsettling. About 45 minutes after the 15-minute procedure, my mother walked me out and drove me home. With a heating pad shoved in my pants and resting on my abdomen, we headed home crossing the many painful potholes of New York City. It was terrible, and I had a bedpan over myself as I dry heaved.
When I got home I was in so much pain I don’t know how I was able to pass out – maybe the extra-strength Tylenol, the only thing I was allowed to take. I had to go back to the doctor’s office later that day (all the way on the Upper East Side from Brooklyn) because I was in so much pain only for them to stick an ultrasound wand up in my lady bits to have yet another look around. TWICE. They saw some fluid and blood floating around but not too much to make a fuss. So case closed, I was safe as per their professional medical option. For now.
Ovarian cysts can show up, and they can rupture
I’ve never had cysts. But with this procedure it’s common. Again something no one highlights as you get warmed up to the egg freezing process. They call it ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, or OHSS, some women experience after taking the medicine. In my opinion, this probably happens to the women who are doing this as a preventative solution (like me) and who definitely don’t need the extra dose of hormones to make our ovaries swell up to 3x the normal size. I was told I had cysts a few days later and had sharp abdomen pains all week following. Think of the worst menstrual cramps you’ve ever had, but with piercing jolts coming from your ovaries. It sucks, but they say that in time they dissipate, or rupture…
1-week post egg feezing op I ended up in the ER on a beautiful Sunday afternoon because I was in so much pain. Turns out, since I still had overstimulated myself so much, a follicle or two ruptured. It had enough. It said screw you and your drugs, lady. No more eggs for you. But really, a ruptured follicle is not harmful long term. It just hurt like a bitch for hours and was very upsetting on top of everything else. Oh yeah, of course, I had to get blood again and get a trans-vaginal ultrasound. Walkthrough the park.
Walking is hard. And so is going to the bathroom.
For a few days, it literally felt like someone had a knife fight all within my abdominal cavity. From the very top of my ribs all the way to my pelvis. I was crippled and could hardly make it to the toilet. My theory is that the more eggs that are retrieved, the more pain you’re in. But who knows. In the first couple of days, I could hardly walk which made going to wee really tough. Not even a squat was possible. But it’s a double edge sword because the best thing to do is hydrate and try to eliminate all the drugs that were put in your system. I found that I had to wiggle around a bit and find some position that didn’t put too much pressure on my ovaries and abdominals before trying to pee. I’d gladly pop a squat in the woods for the next 500 pees of my life than ever have to feel that way again.
Because of the insane amount of hormones you’re injecting and the anesthesia they pump you up with on retrieval day, you may get backed up. I felt like I was passing stones for the first couple of days post-op. I really wish I knew that this was something to look out for, as I surely would have taken some kind of stool softener to not have to deal with this OTHER side-effect. While you can’t take anything before the procedure, surely there is a workaround to prevent you from having to deal with this very annoying situation to top off the whole experience.
You belly blows up (and can get black & blue)
They say that with taking the medicine and hormones you’ll bloat. I hardly saw a difference while injecting the several types of hormones into myself daily, but HOLY CRAP did I see a difference after the surgery. Now, this only lasted a few days but it was surely terrifying to not be able to see my feet, wear my normal clothing, and just feel like myself. It’s just another decoration to the shitcake you baked for yourself that you have to deal with.
You bleed internally a little bit as a result of this procedure – after all, there are needles stabbing your ovaries and extracting eggs. I had blood in my belly that showed itself by surfacing up to my belly button (that was a surprise) that I wasn’t prepared to see and/or know what the hell it indicated. Again, something you should be aware of so it doesn’t catch you by surprise if you ever go through this. But I’d advise if this does happen, 100% make sure to see your doctor as it can be a sign of some serious internal bleeding.
No exercise for a month
This was a real drag for me. I just became a certified yoga instructor and all I want to do is build a sequence and flow! But no, not when you are doing the 2 weeks of injections nor when you are recovering the 2 weeks later. As if your body needed to feel more shitty. I did, however, try to incorporate meditation when possible and simple yoga poses in my mornings. Mostly, working some pre-natal adjustments were the safest bet as you do not want to twist or put pressure on your enlarged ovaries.
A financial investment you must be comfortable with
The actual cost alone can run you about $16,000 (my insurance did not cover this). This includes:
- Medicine (baseline of $4,000 for 1 round + extra costs if you run out of your supply &/or do another round to produce more eggs).
- The actual procedure (approximately $8,000)
- Unexpected hospital fees, visits, and ER can run upwards to $12,000 (luckily my insurance did cover my ER visit)
- Annual egg storage fee (approximately $1,000)
TBD on what the embryo creation and implantation will run me down the line if that’s the route I take. At that point, who cares!?
Closing thoughts on egg freezing:
- Take a hard look at yourself. Family planning stuff is tricky even for couples. Think about how much you are willing to put on the line for what you know deep down inside is the right choice for you.
- Do not let outside pressures influence the choices you make for yourself. If you know you don’t want kids until a much older age, maybe you should take advantage of youth on your side for a probable IVF process down the road. But please don’t be persuaded by the notion that this is a simple procedure without repercussions. It’s not a wham-bam done deal. It takes a while to heal.
- My hope is that down the line I’ll be thanking myself for having gone through all this egg freezing bullshit. But hey, at least I have a story to tell. An expensive one.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and that it has shed some light on questions you may have had.
Hero image credit: Bianca Bagnarelli