You’re well aware of the whole biological clock thing (thanks for the bi-weekly reminder, Mom). But while you’ve heard of “freezing your eggs” in passing, you don’t really know what it entails. We had a zillion questions ourselves. So we reached out to Extend Fertility, a boutique egg freezing clinic in NYC. From how much it costs to how much it hurts (spoiler alert: it’s not that bad), their chief medical officer and reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Joshua U. Klein, and director of education, Kristen Mancinelli, answered all of our questions.   

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Let’s start with the basics: Why do women freeze their eggs?
“Fertility begins to decline significantly around age 30—and more rapidly each year or two after 35. Amazingly, if a woman uses frozen eggs from her younger self, her chances of getting pregnant with those eggs are very similar to the chance she would have had using them at the time they were frozen.” — Dr. Joshua U. Klein

Freezing your eggs sounds so sci-fi. What does it actually mean?
"Egg freezing is the process of preserving women’s eggs by retrieving some of them from her ovaries, freezing them and storing them so they can be used when she decides she would like to get pregnant.” — Kristen Mancinelli

And by “freezing,” you mean literally freezing the eggs?
“Yes. Different clinics will use different techniques. At Extend Fertility, eggs are frozen using a process called vitrification—where each of a woman’s eggs are exposed to substances that prevent the formation of ice crystals (aka bad for the eggs). Eggs are then immersed in liquid nitrogen and flash frozen, which keeps them preserved indefinitely.” — Kristen Mancinelli

What age do you recommend a woman freeze her eggs if interested? 
“Ideally before age 35. After they’re frozen, the eggs can be stored indefinitely. Babies have been born from eggs frozen as long as 14 years, and there’s no scientific evidence that eggs get less healthy or the chance of success declines the longer they stay frozen.” — Dr. Joshua U. Klein 

How long does the process take?
“The initial cycle takes about a month. First you have a fertility assessment and consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist. That’s followed by eight to 11 days of hormone injections to stimulate egg production and then the final procedure to retrieve the eggs from her ovaries. That said, some women do more cycles if they didn’t yield as many eggs.” — Kristen Mancinelli

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How do the hormone injections usually affect a patient?
“Twenty-five percent of women can experience mild headaches, mood swings, insomnia, hot or cold flashes, breast tenderness, bloating or mild fluid retention—mostly mild side effects that subside within a few days. A more serious risk—hyperstimulation syndrome—can in occur in about 1 in 1,000 women. Vigilant medication dosing and hormone monitoring can reduce this risk to near zero.” — Dr. Joshua U. Klein 

How intense is the egg retrieval surgery?
“While a patient is under anesthesia, the physician inserts a needle through the vaginal wall into each ovary to draw out the eggs and surrounding fluid. The needle is attached to a catheter that’s connected to a test tube and the eggs flow through the catheter into test tubes, which are then handed off to the embryologist. The entire procedure takes about ten to 15 minutes. There is no incision, stitches or scar.” — Dr. Joshua U. Klein 

Gotta ask: What's the pain factor? 
“The stimulation phase, during which a woman injects herself with hormones, is generally more of a pain than it is painful. The transvaginal ultrasound exams aren’t painful, but they can be slightly uncomfortable. During the egg retrieval procedure, the woman is under anesthesia and won’t feel a thing. She may experience some pain upon waking up, such as soreness in the vaginal area and/or some abdominal cramping, similar to how a woman might feel when getting her period.” — Dr. Joshua U. Klein 

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What’s the cost breakdown? 
“If a woman with normal ovarian reserve decides to move forward and freeze her eggs with Extend Fertility, she will pay $4,990. But that number can vary greatly at different practices—it might even be double.” — Kristen Mancinelli

And medication and lab costs?
“Women will also need to purchase medications through a pharmacy, which typically cost between $2,000 and $4,000 per cycle. As for blood screening tests, those are about $250, but are usually covered by insurance. Some insurance plans will also cover some or all of the medication costs, which can be a significant savings.” — Kristen Mancinelli

And storage?
“Our storage plans range from $350 to $450 per year, depending on how long you plan to store the eggs.” — Kristen Mancinelli

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So you froze your eggs. Now you want a baby. What do you do?
"She would need to go through the IVF process. That might be at the same place she stored her eggs, or it might be different. We recommend to research, research, research. At Extend Fertility, our partner medical practice in New York can thaw her eggs and facilitate the fertilization process." — Dr. Joshua U. Klein

Is there a cut-off age for using the eggs? 
“There are decades of data demonstrating that women are capable of carrying a healthy pregnancy—when achieved with younger eggs—until the late 40s or older, if they are in good general health.” — Dr. Joshua U. Klein  

What's the IVF process and how long does it take? 
“The eggs will be carefully thawed and fertilized with sperm (of your choice) to create embryos. The woman will begin a two- to three-week process of taking oral medications and vaginal suppositories to prepare her body for the transfer of the embryos into her uterus, which is a five- to ten-minute non-surgical procedure performed using ultrasound guidance. After about 10 days, the woman will take a blood pregnancy test to find out if the procedure was a success.” — Dr. Joshua U. Klein 

How much does IVF usually cost? 
“At most IVF clinics, using frozen eggs will cost $3,000 to $5,000. At Extend Fertility, we’ve been able to partner with a practice to reduce that cost by 25 to 50 percent.” — Kristen Mancinelli

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What happens to eggs you don't ever use? 
“Once a woman’s eggs are frozen, she can use them however she would like. Women who ultimately choose not to use their eggs for reproductive purposes can opt to discard them, or donate them to help advance scientific research.” — Dr. Joshua U. Klein 

What’s the general response you see after a successful cycle?
“Many women feel that freezing their eggs clears their head to focus on other life goals; some say it allows them to go full speed ahead in their career or education, without that constant worry in the back of their head; others say they that, after freezing their eggs, they feel less pressure to find a serious partner, which makes dating a lot more fun.” — Kristen Mancinelli 

Do women usually talk about the process or keep it private? 
“It’s a subject that tends to have a lot of secrecy around it. However, not all women encounter difficulty talking to loved ones about freezing their eggs. In fact, a recent study conducted by NYU Langone Medical Center found that 90 percent of women discussed their decision to freeze with family and/or friends, and most were met with a positive and supportive reception. From my experience, many women find that once they start opening up and sharing their experience, they realize their loved ones are not all strangers to the issue themselves.” — Kristen Mancinelli

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