What you can expect
Egg freezing has multiple steps — ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval and freezing.
You'll take synthetic hormones to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs — rather than the single egg that typically develops monthly. Medications that might be needed include:
- Medications for ovarian stimulation. You might inject medication such as follitropin alfa or beta (Follistim AQ, Gonal-f) or menotropins (Menopur).
- Medications to prevent premature ovulation. Your doctor might prescribe an injectable gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist such as leuproline acetate (Lupron) or a gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist such as cetrorelix (Cetrotide).
During treatment, your doctor will monitor you. You'll have blood tests to measure your response to ovarian-stimulation medications. Estrogen levels typically increase as follicles develop, and progesterone levels remain low until after ovulation.
Follow-up visits will also include having vaginal ultrasound — a procedure that uses sound waves to create an image of the inside of your ovaries — to monitor the development of fluid-filled sacs where eggs mature (follicles).
When the follicles are ready for egg retrieval — generally after 10 to 14 days — an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (Pregnyl, Ovidrel) or another medication can help the eggs mature.
Egg retrieval is done under sedation, typically in your doctor's office or a clinic. A common approach is transvaginal ultrasound aspiration, during which an ultrasound probe is inserted into your vagina to identify the follicles.
A needle is then guided through the vagina and into a follicle. A suction device connected to the needle is used to remove the egg from the follicle. Multiple eggs can be removed, and studies show that the more eggs retrieved— up to 15 per cycle — the better the chances of birth.
After egg retrieval, you might have cramping. Feelings of fullness or pressure might continue for weeks because your ovaries remain enlarged.
Shortly after your unfertilized eggs are harvested, they're cooled to subzero temperatures to preserve them for future use. The makeup of an unfertilized egg makes it a bit more difficult to freeze and lead to a successful pregnancy than does the makeup of a fertilized egg (embryo).
The process most commonly used for egg freezing is called vitrification. High concentrations of substances that help prevent ice crystals from forming during the freezing process (cryoprotectants) are used with rapid cooling.
After the procedure
Typically, you can resume normal activities within a week of egg retrieval. Avoid unprotected sex to prevent an unintended pregnancy.
Contact your health care provider if you have:
- A fever higher than 101.5 F (38.6 C)
- Severe abdominal pain
- Weight gain of more than 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms) in 24 hours
- Heavy vaginal bleeding — filling more than two pads an hour
- Difficulty urinating