Between various sitcom plotlines, celebrity endorsements and a parade of first-person stories, you might feel like everyone’s freezing their eggs. But pop-culture ubiquity aside, a lot of us are still confused about the actual process. While choosing whether or not to freeze your eggs is an incredibly personal decision (not to mention a hefty financial one), the first step is separating fact from fiction. Dr. Cary Dicken, a reproductive endocrinologist at women’s fertility studio Trellis in New York City, is setting us straight on this whole egg-freezing thing.
Myth: It hurts. Or it’ll at least make me super bloated and uncomfortable.
For most women, the week or so leading up to the egg retrieval—when you take medication to kick your ovaries into overdrive—doesn’t feel too different from a regular period, Dr. Dicken tells us. And during the actual procedure, you’ll be under sedation, so you shouldn’t feel a thing. Afterward, you'll need a friend or family member to pick you up (aka don't drive), and you may experience PMS-like symptoms, but you should be back to feeling normal within 24 hours.
Myth: After getting so many eggs removed at once, I’ll go through menopause sooner.
This one’s a little confusing: While it’s true you usually only release one egg during ovulation, you’re actually losing thousands of undeveloped eggs a year—the rest in each cycle just die off. During the egg freezing process, medications stimulate all those extra eggs (that would otherwise be lost) to maturity, so they can be frozen. So no, the egg harvesting process won’t cause you to “run out of eggs,” and should have no bearing on the age you’ll enter menopause.
Myth: Freezing my eggs basically guarantees I’ll be able to have a baby when I want one.
Unfortunately, each egg only corresponds, statistically, to a live birth rate of about 8 percent. That’s why most clinics aim to freeze 15 or more eggs to boost your chances.
Myth: I can’t drink during the process.
We definitely believed this one—but nope, alcohol in moderation is totally fine, Dr. Dicken assures us. There’s no evidence that a glass of wine here or there has an impact on egg quality. That said, experts generally agree that a healthy lifestyle across the board is best for optimizing fertility.
Myth: I can still go to the gym.
Sorry, exercise other than walking isn’t advisable (you want to avoid jostling your ovaries). And you definitely don’t want to have sex during the process and for a week afterward. (There’s a possibility that stray eggs can get left behind…that could accidentally get fertilized.)
Myth: I might as well just wait and do IVF when I actually want a baby.
The science is pretty clear: Younger eggs correspond to better chances. For women who freeze before 35, the odds are higher that eggs will survive the thawing process and be fertilized successfully. So don't necessarily count on your "fresh" eggs a few years from now being better than eggs you freeze now.
Myth: I’m planning to start having kids soon, so I probably won’t need it.
While you may not have trouble getting pregnant with your first child, you might want to think about your ultimate family plan. If baby number two (or three) is definitely something you want, and you’ll be in your late 30s or early 40s by then, that’s something to consider.
I’m over 35—I’m already too old.
Not necessarily. Dr. Dicken says it's absolutely still worth looking into if you know you want kids at a later date—every woman's fertility is different, which is why she recommends learning all you can about your own fertile health and statistical success rates before writing it off. If you do go through with it, she says it's ideal to freeze more eggs than someone under 35 (which may require more than one cycle). There's a higher likelihood of abnormalities, so more eggs means a better chance at an eventual pregnancy.