E l egg freezing process has five phases:

1. Diagnosis and planning with your doctor

2. Preparing your body for egg retrieval

3. Surgical egg retrieval

4. Egg freezing and storage

5. Possibly defrosting and reuse
  at a later time (more on this in another section)
 

Once you have found a  fertility doctor  , you will begin the first step, which is to perform diagnostic tests to better understand your individual situation and how your body is likely to respond to fertility drugs.

This step can often take longer than patients would like, as some tests need to be done on certain days of the menstrual cycle, and some are more accurate if you have been off hormonal contraceptives for a while.  Basically the goal of testing is to understand: if you take  hormones  How many eggs are you likely to produce for your doctor to collect and freeze?

Once that is fixed, if you decide to go ahead with egg freezing, you will be in sync with your doctor to plan a likely schedule for your cycle; this may ultimately depend on when you have your period, or your doctor could start on birth control pills so that there is more clarity on when a cycle will start.  This phase also includes the non-trivial step of ordering medications.  It may sound easy, but ordering fertility drugs isn't just your usual trip to Walgreens - you'll likely need to think about it ahead of time, often ordering out of state and carefully taking inventory once everything has arrived.  You'd be surprised how many cycles can't start because a drug or equipment didn't show up on time.

The second phase, in almost all cases, will mean that you start administering  daily hormone injections  , with the aim of helping your body produce a large number of eggs.  While women have multiple follicles on their ovaries, usually only one is selected for maturation and released in a given month.  The goal of fertility drugs is for all the follicles in the ovaries to produce mature eggs.  In this phase, there is very little room for negotiation over the schedule - your body's time and the doctor's planning will dictate the schedule.  For the next few weeks or two, you will probably inject hormones every night; This part can be quite daunting, which is why many women choose to have someone help them, be it a friend, family member, or nurse who can come to administer medications.  During that time, you will go to the doctor very often for monitoring, where you will have pelvic ultrasounds to monitor the growth of your follicles and also perform blood tests to monitor your hormone levels.  This will inform you of possible changes in the medications you are taking, the dosage, and the timing of your eventual surgery.  When the follicles in your ovaries are large enough, your doctor will tell you to take something called "  trigger  "  . This injection must be given at a very specific time (it is usually given a time interval of only a few minutes), and it can be more complicated and stressful to administer than previous medications.  If there is an opportunity for help, this is it!  Almost exactly 36 hours later, you will be back in the office  from your doctor for the third step: surgically retrieving the eggs.  Most practices use general anesthesia, although some use local anesthesia, for this brief procedure that lasts approximately 1:30 to  2 hours.  The doctor will use a needle, guided by a vaginal ultrasound, to suck the fluid out of each of your follicles.  The hope is that each follicle contains  a ripe egg. The surgery is an outpatient procedure, so you will be able to go home fairly quickly after it is done.  When it comes to recovery, most doctors will say that average recovery is minimal and that women go back to work the next day.  However, almost all of the women we spoke to report a recovery that is slightly longer.

The fourth step is to freeze those eggs.  In the surgery room, the doctor will pass the fluid drawn from your follicles to an embryologist, who will examine you for mature eggs.  Any mature eggs they find will be cryopreserved or frozen.  In recent years, the predominant way that the best laboratories have done this is through a quick freeze method called vitrification.  Your fertility clinic will then store your eggs until such time as you can choose to use them.

The premise of freezing eggs

The premise behind egg freezing is that a woman's eggs decline in quality as they age, but this occurs before their ability to  carry  a pregnancy in utero.  Therefore, we can use younger, frozen and thawed eggs in an older woman's uterus and get a higher pregnancy rate than you might expect with your older eggs.

Egg freezing is talked about as a new concept, but in reality that is not entirely true.  We will explain how egg freezing is almost the same process as a standard procedure called egg donation, except that it gives a woman the opportunity to be her own donor, and her younger self donates to her older self.

We know this is a bit confusing, so we'll explain more in the chapters below.

 

This phenomenon does not extend to the uterus.

One interesting thing about a woman's biology is that the quality of her eggs generally declines faster than the quality of her uterus, or her ability to  carry  a pregnancy.  This is why older women can have reliable children using donated eggs (which we cover below).

Therefore, the premise and hope of egg freezing is that harvesting and freezing eggs while a woman has more high-quality eggs will allow her to use them later and have a child if she has trouble conceiving on her own.

Egg freezing takes advantage of the disparity in time between when the quantity and quality of most women's eggs declines and when women are physically no longer able to carry a pregnancy in utero.