When a woman elects to freeze her eggs, it’s typically a decision made after a great deal of debate and deliberation. Unfortunately, extensive research could lead you down a rabbit hole of myths and falsehoods about the procedure. At the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we’ve answered hundreds of questions from women who are looking to freeze their eggs, and have walked with them through every step of the process thereafter.
Part of the support we offer at AZCREI is helping women like you sift through all the information and misconceptions you may encounter. We’re here to help separate the myth from reality; that way you can make the decision that’s best for you. While you may have your own specific questions and concerns, here are the 10 most common myths we hear at our center.
Myth #1: Egg freezing is new and experimental
Prior to 2013, if a woman wanted to freeze her eggs she had to do so under an experimental protocol, because at that point, the procedure was still fairly new. Today, the “experimental” label has been dropped. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) supports the procedure as being safe and effective due to implementation of the rapid-freezing method, vitrification. In the years since, there have been several studies that conclude that in vitro fertilization using frozen eggs can result in roughly the same pregnancy rates as “fresh” eggs.
Myth #2: Egg freezing is “dangerous”
There is no evidence that suggests ovarian stimulation and egg freezing causes any harm to women or their potential future children. The procedure does not increase a woman’s risk of cancer and side effects (such as headaches, mood swings, breast tenderness, or bloating) are minimal. There is also no increased likelihood of birth defects, chromosomal abnormalities, or pregnancy complications for an embryo conceived with a frozen egg.
Myth #3: The process is super time-consuming
The process begins about a week before the onset of your menstrual cycle, and finishes about two weeks after, roughly around the time of ovulation. Hormone injections, which stimulate ovulation, are taken once or twice a day during the initial week or so. During this time, your doctor will monitor how your body is responding to the medication. This usually only requires three to four brief office visits, each about 15-30 minutes. In all, the entire process takes approximately three weeks. Once we’ve retrieved the eggs, your cycle will go back to normal, and you can then continue taking birth control if you choose.
Myth #4: Egg freezing is painful and invasive
The actual egg retrieval is technically considered a surgery, but it’s really not all that invasive—there are no stitches or cuts and the procedure takes less than 15 minutes. We typically give patients medication to help them feel comfortable and relaxed during the process. Afterwards, the patient usually has someone to take them home, and they’ll take it easy the rest of the day. By the next day, they’re recovered and ready to go back to work or continue on with their regular activities.
Myth #5: Freezing eggs now could reduce your future fertility
Because egg freezing involves removing eggs from the woman’s body, many people think the process decreases the number of eggs available for future pregnancy. The truth is, every month a woman ovulates and releases multiple eggs—a mature one, along with several others. The hormone medication we give patients ensures that multiple eggs develop and mature, which preserves the otherwise “lost” or discarded eggs to freeze and use later.
Myth #6: Freezing your eggs and using them later isn’t as effective as using “fresh” eggs when you’re older
The most important factor when it comes to fertility isn’t necessarily a woman’s age, but the age of her eggs. The younger your eggs are, the healthier they will be, regardless of how long they’ve been frozen or the age at which you decide to pursue a pregnancy. Since a woman hits her peak fertility while she is in her 20s, using an egg that has be frozen during those years will result in a higher likelihood of pregnancy when used during IVF, than using a “fresh” egg while she is in her 40s.
Myth #7: Egg freezing is only an option for wealthy women
At AZCREI, our mission is to help every one of our patients achieve a pregnancy and have a baby. Egg freezing is rarely covered by insurance, but our team is dedicated to keeping the costs of the procedure as low as possible so every woman can take advantage of this technology.
Myth #8: Egg freezing is a guaranteed pregnancy
While there are no guarantees in life, freezing your eggs does raise the likelihood that you are able to achieve a pregnancy later in life. Many things need to happen to ensure a pregnancy using frozen eggs: the eggs have to be healthy and viable at the time of freezing, they have to survive thawing, and successfully fertilize and implant. If everything goes well, you will have a little bundle of joy at the end of the IVF process. Our center is at an almost 30 percent pregnancy rate for a single live birth, which puts us in the top 10 fertility clinics in the country.
Myth #9: Egg freezing is an insurance policy for women in their 30s
There’s no age limit to when you can freeze your eggs, but it’s recommended to do so at as young an age as possible. It’s perfectly acceptable for a woman in her 30s to freeze her eggs, but you don’t have to wait until then if you know this is a procedure that will benefit you. The younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the more and higher quality eggs you’ll have that we’ll be able to retrieve.
Myth #10: Career-focused women are the only ones who benefit from egg freezing
Egg freezing does have a rap for benefiting career women, since it gives them time to get ahead in their field, while focusing on work instead of a family. However, women choose to freeze their eggs for a variety of reasons. The procedure can also be especially valuable for women who are going through chemotherapy, since it allows them to preserve their eggs before the cancer treatment can damage them.
Regardless of the reason for opting for the procedure, egg freezing is a way to empower women and allow them to take control of their future. At AZCREI, we don’t want any misconceptions or concerns to get in their way of this decision. For more information on the procedure or to schedule a consultation visit us online or call us at 520-326-0001.