I’m a 33-year-old woman. I’m not married. I work in the entertainment business. I froze my eggs. Think this is something you may be interested in too? Below I give my detailed journey of how I felt and what I did while I was going through the egg freezing process. By reading this I hope I will answer all of your questions. If not, feel free to reach out on my contact page here!
Step 1: Check Your Insurance
I hope we can one day live in a world where all women can freeze their eggs at no cost. I also hope to find a New-York-quality bagel in LA so what can I say? I dream big. Currently, most companies do not cover the cost of egg freezing, aka egg preservation. However, it’s worth looking into.
My plan with UnitedHealthcare said it would cover 90 percent up to $10,000, for both the procedure and the cost of the medications. To receive coverage I had to go to a place they deemed “a center of excellence.” United put me in touch with a nurse who told me a bit about the process and said she would be there for any emotional support or could set me up with counseling if needed. She then sent me a list of reproductive centers that were considered centers of excellence. Luckily, there was one less than two miles away from my apartment. Thank you baby Cheez-its! During this process you have to go to the office ALL THE TIME. It’s worth looking for somewhere that is close to your home or office.
Step 2: Setup a Consultation
Friday, December 18, 2018
I went into Reproductive Partners Medical Group to meet with Dr. Carrie Wambach. That day I was feeling both nervous and a bit sad. Sad because I was at this point in my life where a biological clock was something I had to pay attention to. However, after meeting with Dr. Wambach (highly recommend) I was almost on a high, excited to take this step. I wasn’t going to let life just happen to me.
She explained the process and said for many women who have been on birth control for years, like I had, they have to get off of it for 2-3 months before starting hormone injections. To find out she needed to check my ovaries and see what my fertility situation looked like.
We went into an exam room where she did an ultrasound. If you’re wondering, as I was before I sat down, she did this through the vag, not on top of the stomach. Call me immature, but there is something so comical about the doctor lubing up a condom and rolling it onto the ultrasound wand.
Upon examining my ovaries she seemed really happy and impressed. “You have so many eggs!” She counted 17 and said, “that’s just on one ovary!” Damn right, I have the best eggs in town. Should I put that on my dating profile? She told me that because of this, I could come in five days before the start of the process, do another ultrasound, stop the birth control, and then a few days later, start shooting up those hormones!
I then had blood drawn to make sure I wasn’t carrying any horrifying infections that would put my eggs and the eggs of others in the freezer at risk. A nurse and I then spoke and went over all the details of what needed to be done prior to starting. She recommended I start taking prenatal vitamins and some supplement called Coq10. I still don’t know what Coq10 does but I highly recommend the peach mango gummies from Nature’s Bounty. As someone who hardly ever eats candy, I love me a good gummy vitamin.
In order to get my body in preparation mode, she told me to limit my coffee to one cup a day and to avoid high mercury fish. Since there are many, I stuck with just eating salmon from thereon out.
I was ready to jump right in but the last question the nurse asked was, “Have you traveled out of the country in the last three months?” “No… but I’m going to Cabo next week.” Can you believe Zika is still a thing? For that reason, I had to wait two months before starting. I made an appointment at the end of February to return.
The last part of this appointment was meeting with the finance director. She too greeted me like I had done something right in my life. “Wow, your insurance is amazing!” She says it’s rare that both the medication and the procedure are covered. And, bonus, they cover up to one year of egg storage after the procedure. She told me that the procedure had to be submitted for authorization right before I began. (This was something that did lead to stress later on but at the time I didn’t really know what it meant.)
I walked out of that appointment having very much enjoyed my time there! I’m definitely impatient, so I was bummed I had to wait a bit. However, when I thought about my upcoming girl’s trip to Cabo, I was even more convinced this was the right thing to do. I like my life! If this could potentially buy me a little more time before I have to devote it to a child, why not?
Step 3: Doctor Appointment Before Starting The Hormones
Monday, February 25, 2019
I had another ultrasound and got my blood drawn again to make sure my body was still in the same place as it was at the consultation. Once everything looked good they told me I could come back Thursday to learn how to do the injections!
Yay, injections… I was freaked out. A few months prior I literally got lightheaded and dizzy when a friend said the word “epidural.” My mom was flying in from the East Coast to be with me during this and I was convinced she would have to take the wheel and stab. The thought of me using a needle on myself seemed unfathomable.
(Possible) Step 4: Deal With Insurance Bullshit
Monday, February 25, 2019 – Sunday, March 3, 2019
With all the hormones I was about to take, I was sure I would be a crying machine. However, it was only during this week, when I wasn’t on hormones, that I found myself in tears.
Like most millennials (and this is the first and only time I will classify myself in this category) I don’t really have a comprehensive understanding of how insurance works. When I was told this was “covered” I assumed that meant all was good. I didn’t know to get “authorization” was something that could get denied.
The medications had to be ordered through a specialty pharmacy, CVS Caremark, and they were going to call me with the pricing and to set up delivery. I got a call that two of the five medications were covered: HCG and Lupron. The other three, Gonal-F, Menopur, and Cetrotide were not. The cost of just one of those medications alone was $3,500! I was not in the position to spend close to $10,000 on drugs. I popped my birth control thinking “fuck it,” this isn’t happening.
This part got complicated, and I’ll spare you all the details. In short, I was misinformed and someone in the doctor’s office said it was unlikely the procedure will get covered unless it is a medical necessity, which essentially means cancer. After multiple calls to the pharmacy, the doctor’s office, and the healthcare nurse, I got many mixed messages. Luckily, the procedure, which without insurance is also about $10,000, did get authorized. Then, only one woman I spoke to at the doctor’s office suggested the drugs got denied because the procedure hadn’t yet been approved. The nurses at the practice resubmitted the drugs for approval and I sat with anxiety waiting to hear back.
I yet again, stopped my birth control on Sunday, hoping take two would be better. You need to first get your period, which comes swiftly upon stopping the birth control, before starting the hormones.
Step 5: Get Those Drugs
Monday, March 4, 2019 – Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Déjà vu, I have another appointment before starting injections. Another ultrasound. More blood is drawn. I was terrified this week would be a repeat of the last, since I had not yet heard back if the drugs were approved.
I called CVS Caremark and after being on hold for eternity the pharmacist one by one entered each drug into his system and let me know if it was covered. They all were! I never thought $625 would be a steal for medication, but I was more than happy to read off my credit card and pay the copay.
The medicines were delivered Wednesday and the sheer volume was overwhelming! Move over almond milk, the five boxes of Gonal-F and the four boxes of Cetrotide had to be stored in the refrigerator.
Step 6: Learn How to Do the First Two Injections
Thursday, March 7, 2019
I had another ultrasound. I learned that when you ovulate, your body releases one egg, which comes from the lead follicle. In this process, you are increasing the size of the eggs in your follicles and upon ovulation want to release all of them, not just the lead one. (I think… I’m not a doctor, I just spoke to one and am relaying what I remember a month later.)
It was time for my tutorial with the nurse to learn how to use the first two medicines, Menopur and Gonal-F. If possible, I recommend bringing a second set of ears because it is a lot to remember and very overwhelming. However, just remind yourself, there are people less intelligent than you who have done this aka Scheana from Vanderpump Rules.
I brought my mom who didn’t leave any question unturned. She was like that kid in class who constantly has her hand raised and you’re like “omg shut up” but then that kid gets an A+ to your C-. I could still exercise but could not drink or have sex. Boo. I was so curious if I were to have sex, could I be the next Octomom?
The nurse told us we might want to record her demoing the medicines. You DEFINITELY want to do this. I watched that video in the coming weeks more times than I’ve watched my all-time favorite video, “Grape Lady Falls.”
The nurse was a lovely woman who sprinkled in fun facts like, Menopur was initially made from the urine of nuns because it was thought to be the purest thing in existence. Luckily, no urine is now in the medication.
The shots should be taken around the same time every night, but you have an hour or two window if needed.
I found Menopur to be the most complicated drug to assemble. It comes as a powder and you have to inject a solution into the powder to make a liquid, then load that liquid into the syringe, then attach a needle, and then inject yourself at a 45-degree angle anywhere along the stomach, below the belly button. It was no MALM dresser from Ikea, but it was more instructions than I was comfortable with.
The Gonal-F pen is easier since it’s preloaded. You press it until the proper dosage is loaded, attach the needle, an again, inject at a 45-degree angle in the stomach. I was nervous I would be the test dummy for the injections but the nurse demonstrated on what looked like a stress ball.
Did I feel ready? No. Did I have a choice? Also, no. I looked at my mom to assess if she was ready to give me injections and I could sense she also wasn’t too keen on it. The nurse had told me months ago, if needed, I could come in and have someone there do the shots every morning. However, finding parking outside that office was a nightmare and weirdly, I felt like I had been given a challenge that I wanted to accept.
Step 7: Give Yourself Two Injections Every Evening
Friday, March 8, 2019 – Sunday, March 17, 2019
All day at work I was thinking about what was awaiting me when I got home. I had my mom set-up the injection station before I arrive. She laid out the two bottles of Menopur, the bottle of solution, the Q-cap, the syringe, the capped needle, the alcohol wipes for my stomach, and the hazardous waste receptacle. We propped the iPad up on the table and watched the nurse’s video, only pausing, I don’t know, one hundred times? We had to make sure we got it right.
For anyone who says, “I don’t know if I could give myself shots!” I’m telling you, you can. The syringe was loaded with the medication and something came over me. It was a control issue. If I gave myself the shot, I could control if I felt pain. I pinched a pocket of fat from my stomach–finally, a reason to be happy about that stubborn layer there–stuck that needle into my flesh, and pressed the syringe down. Woah, what a rush. I did it! The needle was thin and really didn’t hurt much. The medicine burned but not too badly.
The Gonal-F was in the refrigerator so I grabbed that one, pushed the back to load it to 150ml, twisted a needle on, and gave myself the second injection. What was this high I was feeling?!
How long you have to do these shots varies from person to person, but I continued these two medications for 10 days (On average it’s anywhere from 8-14 days). Obviously, it becomes easier as you go, although your stomach takes a bit of beating. Mine was pretty black and blue by the end.
I kept waiting for the hormones to kick in and make me a crazy psycho. However, I didn’t feel any huge mood swings. You know how you feel the day before your period? That’s how I felt throughout this entire time. A bit bloated, slightly tired, a heaviness in my pelvis, and my hunger actually declined. When asked how I was feeling, for the most part, my response was “Blah” or “Meh” but never “Horrible,” never “Just put me out of my misery!” I also stepped on the scale after four days and was up 3.5 pounds. I’d recommend not doing this. You already feel a bit like a cow, no need to put it in numbers.
Step 8: Get Tons of Blood Tests and Ultrasounds
Sunday, March 10, 2019
The frequent visits to the doctor are to monitor how your body is reacting to the medications. That morning I got a blood test and later that day a nurse called to tell me my estrogen level was looking excellent. #killingit
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Back in the always packed waiting room. If you’re way younger than me (and weirdly reading this) and looking for a career option, I’d highly suggest reproductive medicine.
The doctor gave me an ultrasound and said everything is moving right along. At this point, she said no more exercise and recommends watching my diet. Stay away from carbs and sugar. Eat shitty food, feel shitty. I hadn’t been that hungry lately anyway, and without alcohol fueling my bad food choices, this part wasn’t hard to stick to.
I got another blood test and a call later in the day saying my estrogen level of 608 meant everything was tracking nicely.
Step 9: Learn How to Do The Third Injection
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Shocking, I know, but I had another ultrasound. The doctor measured the width of my eggs on her screen. She explained for egg retrieval, you want as many as possible to be 15 or more…cm? Mm? Yeah, I have no concept of units of measure. She said it looked like my procedure was going to be either Tuesday or Wednesday the next week. It’s frustrating that you don’t know when the procedure is until about three days before.
I got another blood test and a call later in the day telling me my estrogen was now at 893.
I sat with a nurse who demonstrated how to assemble the third medication, Cetrotide. This is used to prevent ovulation. It’s similar to the Menopur in that some assembly is required, but this one uses a large needle to draw the medicine into the syringe and then a smaller one to use for the injections. They really don’t make this easy. Luckily, I filmed the nurse in action for my reference. I will give myself this injection around the same time every morning for the next four days.
Step 10: Give Yourself Morning Injections
Friday, March 15, 2019 – Monday, March 18, 2019
Mayday, mayday! I did just what the nurse told me but I could not get the medicine into the syringe! I called the office and another nurse talked me off the ledge. I was able to give myself the injection which was not bad. It was the same size needle as the other two. I did have some itching at the injection site but no biggie.
On Sunday I get another ultrasound and my eggs were big and almost ready to go! The doctor told me my surgery would be on Wednesday. At this point, I was ready to be done. I was definitely pretty cranky the last few days and my pelvis felt like an Easter egg basket. I had a mild allergic reaction to the Cetrotide where my stomach got all red and itchy. The doctor said this is normal and if it happens, it will usually be after a few days.
I woke up Monday morning from a nightmare that I messed up assembling the Cetrotide injection and ran out of medication. This will have been the first of three injection-specific nightmares I have in the next few days! However, this didn’t happen and I finished my fourth and final Cetrotide shot.
Step 11: Prepare for Surgery and Learn How To Give Trigger Shots
Monday, March 18, 2019
I go back for my final check-up and the ultrasound looks good. Lots of large eggs. Wednesday is a-go for egg retrieval. The doctor sat with me to explain what I should expect.
The procedure itself is done under local anesthesia and lasts about a half hour. The doctor inserts a device, similar to the ultrasound wand but with a needle on the end, into the vagina. She will then poke the sacks in which the eggs are held and remove them. Afterward, she said I’ll feel pretty crappy with lots of cramping but luckily they’ll be administering some drugs through my IV to help.
She said to expect cramping, constipation, and discomfort, which is likely because I have so many eggs. She then told me the worse case scenario — and this is when I started to get nervous — where if I experience extreme, can’t stand up, holy-fuck-pain (my words not hers) four days after the procedure, it could mean ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome where my ovaries bleed out and I have to go to the hospital. She says it’s very rare but obviously, I thought it would happen to me.
To try and avoid this syndrome, for the next week to ten days, I was going to follow a very strict no-sugar, no-carb diet. And as if it wasn’t getting old yet, no alcohol, no exercise, and no sex. Later, I checked with others who had frozen their eggs and they weren’t told to stick to this diet. Ugh, I guess I’ll do what my doctor said to avoid exploding ovaries.
The doctor left and then another nurse–there are so many freakin’ nurses at this clinic–came in to explain how to administer the last two VERY TIME SPECIFIC medicines, Lupron and HCG. These are the trigger shots meaning they tell your body, okay, let’s ovulate! Apparently, ovulation will begin about 35 hours after the first shot, and that is right when the doctor will be up in your business, pulling those eggs out of you.
I brought those medications to the office earlier in the week so that the nurses could prefill the syringes to avoid any at-home screw ups. Therefore, for these medicines, all I had to do was poke and push into the area below my stomach. (For some heavier people they may have to do these injections in their butts.) I left the doctors office but had to wait until later to find out what time my surgery was, which would determine the VERY TIME SPECIFIC shots I’d have to take.
I got the call: my surgery was scheduled for 6 AM Wednesday morning. Injection of Lupron and HCG were to be given that night at 7 PM. Then, the final injection of Lupron would be done 7 AM the day before the surgery.
Step 12: Take Trigger Shots
Monday, March 18, 2019 – Tuesday, March 19, 2019
I waited until my iPhone turned to 7 PM and I took those two injections, Lupron and HCG, like clockwork.
I woke up early after another terrifying dream and when the clock turned to 7 AM I grabbed the syringe of Lupron and did my last and final injection! I had imagined the trigger shots to be bigger and scarier than the rest but it was the same size needle.
I also was given an antibiotic to take with my dinner that night. I had to stop eating and drinking eight hours before the surgery which was easy since I planned to go to bed early anyway.
Step 13: Arrange for Egg Storage
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
I had to tell the doctor’s office how I wanted to pay for my egg storage. I chose to forgo the free year covered by my insurance because choosing to pay an upfront fee would still reduce the overall cost per year. I paid $1,573 upfront for five years of storage. If I didn’t want to pay now, I could instead choose to do monthly installments of $41.67 per month for the first two years, then $62.50 for the next two. After five years, in both situations, the price skyrockets to $125 per month! This is slightly insane but sounds like a problem for 2024 Dyana. However, for those who are considering egg freezing, storage fees are another thing to consider as far as the older you are, the shorter amount of time you’d likely end up paying for storage.
Step 14: Egg Retrieval Procedure
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
I woke up at 4 AM and popped two extra strength Tylenol as I was directed to do two hours before the procedure. Then, I hauled my ass to Redondo Beach, where the medical group’s surgery center is. A friendly nurse took me back into a large space with a handful of hospital beds. I changed into a gown and put on a lunch-lady-like hairnet.
I laid down on a bed and the nurse hooked a tube blowing warm air into my gown, which was thicker than a typical one you’d get a doctor’s office. The tube emitted heat to keep me comfortable. I’m not sure if there was a medical purpose for it but it was a nice touch. The nurse again reminded me about the strict diet I’d have to be on as well as told me to avoid twisting motions for fear of my enlarged ovaries twisting over one another. She then took my blood pressure, checked my hemoglobins, and brought over the anesthesiologist to put in the IV line. A small prick to the hand and I was hooked up. The nurse then walked me into the next room where the operation would take place.
I laid in another bed with stirrups at the end. In truly a compromising position, I placed my calves into the stirrups. The doctor popped in to tell me I was going to do great and then the anesthesiologist let those drugs flow. Next thing I knew, I woke from what felt like one of the deepest sleeps of my life. That was it! I had no pain, no awareness of the surgery at all. I felt some cramping and when the nurse asked if I wanted more drugs, I of course accepted. She asked me my pain which wasn’t bad at all but for the sake of more drugs, I upped it to a 3.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. I think someone said they got 18 eggs but I was still on the anesthesia so this part was a bit hard to recall.
Step 15: Recovery: Wait for Your Period… and to Feel like a Normal Member of Society yet Again
The rest of Wednesday I spent in bed, not as tired or as uncomfortable as I expected. I took a second antibiotic with dinner, a meal I ate out of boredom, not hunger. I was prescribed Vicodin just in case, which really led me to believe more pain was around the corner. The doctor even said the day after the procedure would be the worst. But it really wasn’t. I felt crampy and bloated for about three days. I’d highly recommend getting a heating pad. By the weekend, I felt like there was no need to keep resting and besides, I was getting stir-crazy.
I was a bit anxious that after the procedure they would call and say only a few eggs were able to freeze and I would need to do it again. If I needed to, I certainly could, but I very much didn’t want to!
That evening of my procedure the doctor called to check in and told me they had gotten 17 eggs but the lab would call with the final results the next day. I asked what was normal for my age (33 years old) and she said 8-10 is what they aim for. YAY! I also learned that 17 eggs do not equal 17 babies. Typically, there is a 1 in 4 chance your eggs will become viable embryos. Those odds don’t sound great but the crazy thing about all of this is, I hope to never even touch those eggs!
As for the rest of my recovery, just like during the hormone injections, I felt like I was about to get my period. But this time, I hopefully am! The only other side effects I’ve had are my nips were real sensitive the first three mornings I awoke. Also, I was warned of constipation and yes, to an extent that occurred. The nurses recommended Miralax which I used daily and by Monday (5 days after the procedure) I was back to my regular bathroom schedule.
I worked from home for the two days after the procedure because moving was slightly uncomfortable with the cramps and the thought of putting on pants was just not feasible. That being said, if you have a super important job and need to get back to work, you’d be able to. Sleeping was also somewhat difficult because as a side-sleeper I had to remind myself to stay on my back.
I am now awaiting my period (which is expected 7-10 days after the procedure) so that I can put the final red bow on this story. I feel an overall sense of peace. Of course, this is my story, and everyone responds differently, but I hope that in writing this painstakingly long post, the fear of the unknown will be much less for women going forward.
As I approach my 34th birthday I feel so secure and happy where I am. I’m glad I could take the bigger picture and not let a fear of little things like needles or emotional distress psych me out. I again want to point out that this is a huge financial undertaking, and I was privileged and beyond lucky to be able to afford it with the help of my insurance. Those eggs could sit there for years untouched, or, they may allow me to be the mother I one day would like to be. Either way, for me, peace of mind was a worthy investment.