Erin Hanley knows she wants children someday, but doesn’t know how or when that will happen, which led her to freeze her eggs in the fall of 2020.
“I always wanted to have options so I could make a choice later,” the 33-year-old told CBS News.
Hanley is not alone. Egg freezing is an increasingly popular method that people hope will give them options — even if it’s not guaranteed to work.
The procedure also costs thousands of dollars, making it a privilege for people who can afford it or who have fertility insurance coverage.
A woman takes about two weeks of hormone shots to stimulate her ovarian follicles for ovulation. Normally in a menstrual cycle, a follicle ovulates an egg about once a month. The goal of the shots is to get more follicles to produce eggs simultaneously, so multiple eggs can be retrieved at once.
Shots are usually made at home.
Hanley said she was “very nervous” the first time she had to give the shot.
“You kind of mix your own solutions and your shots as well so I put them all out, put them on my counter and then I had a friend over here and was like, ‘Why don’t you film me?'” he said.
Hanley took CBS News along on his journey through videos recorded during the process.
She went to the doctor for blood work and an ultrasound to monitor her progress.
“The first few days I felt good,” Hanley said of the process. “I was probably really tired on the fourth day and really bloated after that. You’re so bloated.”
Once the eggs are large enough, a procedure is done to retrieve them. Usually about 80% of the eggs are mature enough to be frozen.
As for Hanley, 20 of her eggs were retrieved, 14 frozen.
Eggs can then be thawed and fertilized in an attempt to create an embryo. On average, only 30% develop into viable embryos, which can potentially lead to pregnancy.
“Whenever you do egg storage, you always have to remember that 14 eggs will not equal 14 babies,” says Dr. Rachel McConnell, a reproductive endocrinologist at Columbia Fertility Center in New York. He is not Hanley’s doctor but was allowed to review her medical records.
“Given that she is 33 years old and has deposited at least 14 mature eggs, she probably has about an 80% chance of having at least one live birth from that group of eggs,” McConnell said.
For women of all ages, the live birth efficiency from frozen eggs is 4%. In general that means 25 frozen eggs will yield a live birth, according to an NYU study published last year.
McConnell said women should start thinking about their reproductive health at a young age, and doctors should start educating patients at age 25.
“There are techniques and tests they can do to get some idea of what their egg reserve is like,” she said.
Hanley said her OB-GYN didn’t talk to her about egg freezing or family planning.
“It’s always been interesting to me that they don’t talk to you about it and send you a specialist,” he said, adding that he had some reservations about the option, including the cost.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), a cycle of egg storage can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.
But despite the high cost, more women are choosing to make this expensive – and sometimes uncomfortable – investment
ASRM estimates that more than 12,000 people in the United States will freeze their eggs in 2020, nearly doubling from 2016.
Hanley said the option to freeze her eggs gave her hope of having children one day.
“You don’t know what your eggs are going to be like until you get there. Are they viable? I don’t know,” she said. “So that was worrying for me — that I would actually go through this whole thing and then nothing happened.”