Curious About Freezing Your Eggs? Here’s What You Should Know
I am a 33-year-old, single Black woman, and I’m considering freezing my eggs.
Truthfully, I never thought I’d reach my mid-30s single and childless. I have learned a few valuable things about myself on my way to looking into egg freezing. I don’t want to be married, but I want kids. It’s a hot take, I know. Before you assume I’m a cynic and have given up because so many men have broken my heart, you should know that some part of that may be correct. However, I have built such a full, fulfilling, and mostly happy life that I no longer feel the need to wait on my “prince charming” to swoop in and sweep me off my feet to a life of my dreams. I am already building that life. Now, I am ready to have kids in the next couple of years. Since I’ll be 34 this year, egg freezing has been at the top of my mind, especially since I have fibroids and endometriosis. Fibroids and endometriosis can cause pregnancy challenges, and freezing my eggs gives me additional options, like surrogacy. I’m open to adoption, but I am still interested in carrying a baby if I can.
Watching documentaries like Eggs Over Easy: Black Women & Fertility and Nicole Ellis’ The Biological Clock series for The Washington Post inspired me to crack the door open on this topic, so women can continue to talk about family planning openly and without judgment. We aren’t all going to go the traditional route, and that is OK.
To get some insight, I reached out to Dr. Tiffanny Jones, a reproductive endocrinologist and board-certified OB-GYN, to determine what to expect when considering freezing your eggs, and how to advocate for yourself in the doctor’s office.
How to find the best doctor for your family planning goals
Finding the right doctor can be a challenge. I know—after a misdiagnosis, I ended up in an ER bed, with a hefty follow-up bill because my white, male doctor didn’t take the time to order an ultrasound after I voiced my concerns about my heavy bleeding and potentially having fibroids during a Pap smear. He told me that I didn’t have them after my exam, which was later debunked by my Black female doctor, who later performed my laparoscopic myomectomy, and took the time to ask the right questions and order the correct tests. My experience is a common one Black women face.
Black women are up to four times more likely to die from childbirth-related complications than white women, and are often undertreated for pain. So how do we learn to advocate for ourselves when we step into a doctor’s office? Dr. Jones said to trust your spidey senses. “It is important for all women to feel very comfortable and trust their doctor. If your spidey senses get to tingling, get to another doctor,” she said. “That is the injustice we do to ourselves by just blindly trusting when we already know everybody doesn’t have our best interest at heart.”
As we talked, Dr. Jones told me she was staying late to finish up her notes for the day. “I’m here finishing up my notes. If I didn’t take an extra 15 minutes with all my patients who had a 15-minute scheduled appointment, I would be gone [on time]. But, I know that you have to go the extra mile for people, even if you’re going to run a little late—because if you don’t, you could miss something.”
We need to reframe how we speak about fertility preservation
Dr. Jones and I spoke about many things on our phone call. Talking to her was like chatting with one of my best girlfriends, but one who just happened to be schooling me on the ins and outs of freezing my eggs. One gem she dropped stood out, “Who do we get our information from? We kiki. We tea,” she said, speaking of Black women. “It’s not just having the conversation in the doctor’s office. We need to be talking about this amongst ourselves. Our friends that have gone through it need not be stigmatized for it.” I firmly agree. Dr. Jones also added that she believes we need more storylines on television shows that center Black women to lean into discussing fertility preservation, like BET’s Being Mary Jane did in 2015.
So, how much does egg freezing cost?
Well, to be clear, it’s pretty expensive. Freezing your eggs can cost up to about $20,000 and, in most cases, isn’t covered by health insurance providers. Even with the hefty investment, Dr. Jones views it as an insurance policy. “If there was a possibility that if you froze your eggs earlier, that you could have a baby that is biologically yours, that would be the option you’d choose, and you can only do that by being proactive,” she explained.
One thing to note is that even with being proactive, you may hit a few bumps in the road, since freezing your eggs isn’t a sure thing, and Dr. Jones stressed that this process might not be everyone. “If you freeze an egg, you don’t know if it will fertilize once it thaws. The egg has to be fertilized before it can become an embryo, so you don’t know much about it.” Even without knowing much about your eggs pre-thawing, Dr. Jones said talking through your options can be helpful. “I do think we should talk about it, and we should know it’s an option [especially] if you’re someone that knows they’re going to be having kids later in life. You should seek out an opinion to see if it’s something you want to do.” Dr. Jones recommended seeking out professional guidance before 40. “We know that using eggs [frozen by 35] has a much higher likelihood of success.”
What is the process like?
If you don’t like needles, you’re going to have to learn to tolerate them, or this option might not be for you. Dr. Jones said the active process takes about two weeks, and it usually starts with birth control pills. “Everyone thinks you lose one or two eggs a month,” she said. This is a common misconception. “You lose 20-30 eggs a month,” she explained. To help more of your eggs “make it to the finish line,” Dr. Jones explained that birth control “keeps things quiet.”
The next step is the injections, which you’ll administer to your stomach 2-3 times a day for up to two weeks. If you can make it through this process, Dr. Jones said you usually only have to do the egg retrieval process once. Dr. Jones likes to aim for 15-20 eggs. However, this will vary from person to person, depending on your personal history and age.
As you’re going through this process, you’ll have about four monitorings during your injections that usually consist of ultrasounds and blood tests to ensure your follicles and estrogen levels are responding well to the medicine. “Once the follicles [sacks that hold the eggs] are big enough, then it’s signifying there’s a mature egg inside of the follicle,” she said. “Mature eggs are the only ones we typically freeze, because they’re the ones that are capable of being fertilized.” Once the eggs are ready, you’ll inject your “trigger” shot. 36 hours later, your body is ready for egg retrieval, which generally takes about 15 minutes while you’re under localized anesthesia. During the last step, the embryologist searches through the fluid created by your “trigger” shot (the last shot), takes the eggs out, and freezes the mature ones.
Are there any side effects?
Since you will be injecting hormones into your body multiple times a day for a couple of weeks, you may experience heightened emotions, and even some bruising from the shots.
Dr. Jones recommended considering stories of other people who have gone through the process. I am still deciding whether this option is right for me. I still have so much research to do, but I am reading more personal accounts of the egg freezing process, looking for a Black doctor who specializes in fertility preservation, and getting my coins right. If I do decide this process is right for me, I want to be financially ready to move forward. There is no guarantee this process will work for me, but doing research and weighing my options is the first step.
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