Erin Hanley knows she will want children someday, but she doesn’t know how or when that will happen, which is why she went through an egg freeze in the fall of 2020.
“I’ve always wanted to have options so I can make choices later,” the 33-year-old told CBS News.
Hanley is not alone. Egg freezing is an increasingly popular procedure that people hope will give them a choice, even if it’s not guaranteed to work.
The procedure also costs thousands of dollars, making it a perk for people who can afford it or have fertility insurance.
Egg freezing involves about two weeks of hormone injections to stimulate the follicles in a woman’s ovaries. Usually in the menstrual cycle, one follicle ovulates one egg in about a month. The purpose of the vaccinations is to get more follicles for the simultaneous production of eggs, so that several eggs can be obtained at the same time.
Vaccinations are usually given at home.
Hanley said she was “very nervous” the first time she had to inject herself.
“You also kind of mix your own solutions and your shots, so I posted them all, put them on my counter, and then I had a friend and he thought: “Why don’t you film me?” – she said.
Hanley took CBS News with her on her journey through the videos she recorded in the process.
She went to the doctor for a blood test and an ultrasound to monitor her progress.
“The first couple of days I felt good,” Hanley said of the process. “Probably by the fourth day I was very tired, and then also very bloated. You are very bloated.”
As soon as the eggs are large enough, the extraction procedure is carried out. Usually about 80% of the eggs are mature enough to be frozen.
For Hanley, out of 20 eggs retrieved, 14 were frozen.
The eggs can later be thawed and fertilized to produce embryos. On average, only 30% become viable embryos, which can lead to pregnancy.
“Whenever you freeze eggs, you should always remember that 14 eggs will not equal 14 children,” said Dr. Rachel McConnell, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Columbia Fertility Center in New York. She is not Hanley’s doctor, but she was allowed to review her medical records.
“Given that she is 33 years old and has frozen at least 14 mature eggs, she probably has about an 80% chance of having at least one live birth from this group of eggs,” McConnell said.
For women of all ages, the efficiency of live birth from frozen eggs is 4%. In general, this means that 25 frozen eggs will give one live birth. NYU study published last year.
McConnell said women should start thinking about their reproductive health at an early age and doctors should start educating patients at age 25.
“There are methods and tests they can use to get an idea of what their egg supply is like,” she said.
Hanley said her OB/GYN never talked to her about egg freezing or family planning.
“It was always interesting to me that they don’t talk to you about it, but send a specialist to you,” she said, adding that she had some doubts about the option, including the cost.
Egg freezing can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 per cycle, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
But despite the high cost, more women are choosing to make these expensive and sometimes inconvenient investments.
The ASRM estimates that more than 12,000 people in the US had their eggs frozen in 2020, nearly double the number in 2016.
Hanley said being able to freeze her eggs gave her hope to one day have a baby.
“You don’t know until you go in there what your eggs will be like. Are they viable? I don’t know,” she said. “So what worried me was that I would actually go through all of this and then nothing would happen.”