My egg freezing experience at 28 years old

In early June, after considering it for the last two years, I decided to freeze my eggs. It was a big decision, made more challenging by the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the taboo of talking about fertility. And I get it. As soon as I made this decision, I felt like a failure for needing to take this step. I’d had so many illusions of what life would look like at 28 – and just about none of them have come true. I delayed for months, because I was worried about what it would say about me. It felt like an announcement to the world that I was unlovable and nobody wanted to marry me (yes, I understand that’s a bit much).

But honestly, the process is hard enough without shame. So as soon as I decided to freeze my eggs, I knew I had to tell my egg freezing experience.

So today, I’m getting really personal and walking you through my egg freezing experience, from beginning to end, including all the things I wish I had known before embarking on this journey. If you have any other questions, please email me. I’ll respond to you directly & update this post to make it more helpful.

My egg freezing experience

Why did I decide to freeze my eggs?

Freezing my eggs has been on my mind for the last few years. My employer has great insurance coverage, so I knew it would be (relatively) affordable. But more than that, I’ve seen many friends struggle getting pregnant in their mid-thirties. Every one of them told me they wished they had frozen their eggs sooner – especially if it was covered by insurance. I waffled back and forth, because I didn’t feel 1000% certain I wanted to have kids…until last summer.

Two things happened in summer 2019. (1) I became an aunt to two amazing nieces. It was incredible to be around these girls, and in becoming close to them, I started to feel like I could be a mom, too.

(2) I fell in love really hard, became very close with my ex’s family, and absolutely adored his niece and nephew. Being with them and seeing their family interact made me realize I definitely wanted to be a mom. I went as far as purchasing the Modern Fertility home test kit last summer. After being told multiple times in my eating disorder recovery I could struggle with fertility, I sought out confirmation I’d be able to have kids. I’m a huge proponent of the Modern Fertility test, because it gave me a baseline understanding of my fertility (from home).

At that point, I was sure and ready for that next step. I even thought it’d happen relatively soon. So when that relationship ended in fall 2019, I was heartbroken and conflicted. I knew I wanted to be a mom (someday) but the actual meet someone-get married-become ready to have kids thing felt SO far off.

So I decided that as soon as I hit my medical deductible in 2020, I would look into the egg freezing process.

What research did I do prior to my egg freezing experience?

I first reached out directly to my fertility insurance company (Progyny) for an initial consultation. They set me up to speak with a patient care advocate, who explained my benefits to me and answered all my questions (I had a lot). It was really helpful to have this call prior to meeting with a doctor, because I had an idea of what to expect and what to look for in a clinic.

When chatting with friends who had gone through IVF, they let me know to expect a significant delay (think multiple months) between my initial doctor appointment and starting my cycle. So, as soon as I finished my initial call with Progyny, I researched clinics that were in network with both Progyny and my medical insurance. The main resource I used was FertilityIQ. It compiled reviews for doctors and clinics so I could read other women’s experiences and choose a doctor.

Based on my research, I decided to go with Reproductive Medicine Associates (RMA), because all of their doctors received great ratings, they were relatively close by, and I liked that they had offices across the US.

What was the process like?

The initial appointment

The clinic got me in for my first appointment within 10 days of my call. This was a big surprise!

At the first appointment, I talked with the doctor about my history, shared my Modern Fertility test results (you can get $20 off too), and did bloodwork/an ultrasound of my ovaries. In our conversation, I took away one key point: you need a lot of frozen eggs to get to one live birth. At every stage (freezing, thawing, fertilizing, growing to a viable embryo, genetic testing, implanting), you lose about up to 20% of your retrieved eggs. As such, I knew I wanted 16-20 eggs in order to feel like I had enough.

The doctor expressed a bit of concern based on the duration of my eating disorder, which was nerve-wracking. Still, I felt thankful that this egg freezing experience would give me more information about my ability to get pregnant in the future. After the conversation, the doctor performed an ultrasound and found that  everything looked healthy…and also at the perfect point to start a cycle. I was so surprised that I could start an egg freezing cycle less than two weeks from deciding this was something I wanted to do.

Starting the medications

Although I had many people encourage me to wait, I knew I wanted to do this as soon as possible. With COVID-19, I was working from home, had a supportive female boss, and knew that my egg quality degraded every single month. It felt like good timing, even if it was scary and sooner than expected. So, I began medications the next day. For the next 8 days, I gave myself 2-3 shots in the abdomen every night.

The shots definitely hurt and left me looking beat up after day three. I quickly got used to giving myself shots, which surprised me.  I’m so grateful for my friends who had been through the experience, because they checked in on me, answered all my questions, and helped normalize my experience.

After 10 days of medication and appointments (with ultrasounds and bloodwork) every 2ish days, it was time for retrieval.  It was a really intense process, especially during COVID-19, because I had to go into all of my appointments alone.

The procedure

The retrieval was quick (about 15 minutes under general anesthesia) and recovering from the anesthesia took longer than the actual procedure! The doctor told me he retrieved 30 eggs as soon as I woke up, and I was able to freeze 20 of those eggs. With 20 frozen eggs, I have a 99% chance of one live birth. This is an incredible outcome for one cycle of egg freezing. Many women get fewer than 10 eggs in a single cycle, and it’s exceptionally common to have to go through multiple cycles to get a viable number of eggs.

Recovery from the procedure was way worse than I expected. For the week after the procedure, my clothes didn’t fit, I had worse bloating than while on medication, and was in a lot of pain. It’s been two weeks since my procedure, and I am only just now starting to feel my body go back to normal.

What side effects did I have?

Every woman’s experience with egg freezing or IVF (egg freezing is essentially the first half of an IVF cycle) is SO different, because it really depends on how many eggs you grow and how your body responds to the hormones. For me, I experienced terrible nausea after day 4 (to the point that I thought I had food poisoning) and my abdomen inflated as the days went on. My estrogen levels were 10x what a woman experiences in a standard period, so it’s no surprise I felt like I was in the early stages of pregnancy.

Bottom right: 6 days into medication. Left: 8 days into medication. Top right: after the procedure

Although I felt weepy on the third day of medication and was less patient than normal, I did not have many emotional symptoms. The process was more taxing physically for me.

How did I have to modify my lifestyle?

The big questions tend to be:

(1) Can I have coffee?

(2) Can I drink?

(3) Can I exercise in the same way?

For the first two, I didn’t have to make a ton of changes. I drank 1-2 cups of caffeinated coffee a day and drank moderately. Over the 10 days on medication, I had 6 drinks.

But, I had to limit my activity to low impact exercise only for the ten days on medication and until I got my period after the procedure. Because of the emphasis on low-impact exercise before the procedure, I assumed I could get back to normal right when I was done. That was not the case. So, all things considered, it was almost three weeks of decreasing my activity. This was the longest forced rest period I’ve taken since being diagnosed with anorexia.

What do I wish I knew?

1) Responding well to medications might make side effects worse.

As a young, healthy 28-year old woman, my body responded really well to medication. But a better response to medication = intense side effects.

2) Recovery from retrieval is ROUGH – physically and psychologically.

Not fitting into my clothes was very triggering. I expected to the swelling/bloating to go down quickly, but it lasted about a week. I thought the pain and discomfort would fade fast, but it took almost four days to feel close to myself. Even when I was cleared to run, I had to quit halfway through a slow jog due to pain. It brought up a lot of my eating disorder thoughts, especially when my body didn’t go “back to normal” immediately after.

After the procedure vs. before starting medication

The lack of support AFTER the procedure also surprised me.  While preparing for the procedure, my doctor checked in daily. But after, I didn’t hear from him unless I reached out. This surprised me because I felt worse after the procedure than on the medication.

3) Freezing your eggs makes you to reflect on your timeline.

As I went through this process, I had to unpack a lot of feelings of failure and shame. I had hoped to be married by 28 and on the way to having kids. I’m not there yet. Because we don’t openly talk about fertility, I felt like freezing my eggs made me a failure. I had to remind myself that freezing my eggs was a positive thing. There is no shame in shifting your timeline. We should be empowered to choose what’s best for us, our lives, and our goals. We need to normalize talking about fertility.  And that’s why I’m writing this blog.

Would I recommend freezing your eggs?

The process is intense but worth it. I do recommend freezing your eggs, if it’s an option available to you. Although most women who freeze their eggs don’t use them, it’s given me a lot of peace. I feel less anxiety about having to choose a husband right now. There’s way less (internal) pressure to be “ready” to have kids. And let’s be honest, 2020 has thrown off everyone’s timeline.

But I also know it’s a big decision. So please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. I’m here for you.

Hugs,
Katherine
xo