These 6 women froze their eggs — here's what they want you to know

The egg freezing process is complicated and there are a few things a woman should consider before she goes through an egg retrieval surgery.
by Gabrielle Frank / / Source: TODAY

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Girlfriends talk about everything under the sun. Yet, there's one topic that doesn't get as much lip service as perhaps it should: a woman's fertility.

Most women know that as they age, their fertility declines. But to what extent? And what measures can women take to be proactive about their fertility? Those questions just don't come up at book club.

If you're thinking about your fertility and how egg freezing might play a role in your future, here is advice from six women who have been through the process.

1. Your age matters.

"The younger you choose to do this, the better chance you have for quality (of your eggs)," said Gina Lopez, 36, who lives in New Jersey and had her eggs frozen last year. "I had spent about two years weighing the pros and cons. I wish I didn't waste that time and had done it sooner."

2. Thinking about starting the process can be stressful.

That's true even for a doctor: Dr. Shruti Malik, 35, a reproductive endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility in Virginia, had her eggs frozen when she was 31. Malik knew the ins and outs of the process and retrieval surgery, but she was not immune to the initial anxiety.

"The decision to look at testing my ovarian reserve to see if I should freeze my eggs was nerve wracking for me," Malik remembered. "I was nervous about the process, testing and the reality that my ovarian reserve could be low. It was a little bit scary."

3. The process itself is not as scary as it sounds.

"The number one question I get from other women who are considering the procedure is: Does it hurt?" noted Lopez. "I may have been very fortunate, but I didn't have any problems giving myself injections, no side effects or painful recovery from the procedure ... it's not as overwhelming as I thought (at first.)"

Gabriella, 36, of Long Island City, New York, who requested that her last name not be used, froze her eggs at the Reproductive Medical Associates of New Jersey. She was also surprised the process "wasn't as big a deal" as she had thought it would be.

"I thought I was going to go crazy on hormones, but it was OK," Gabriella said. "After the retrieval, I was bloated for two days, and had a painful period following it ... but I very much feel relieved to have done it."

4. There are physical side effects.

"Towards the last couple of days of injecting, I was running out of places (to insert the needles)," explained Danielle Page, 30, who lives in Queens, New York. "My legs were bruised, my underbelly was bruised ... By day five or six, I started to be able to feel my ovaries, which sounds weird, and it was weird ... they (were) very full."

5. You don't have to change your life to freeze your eggs.

"The biggest misconception a lot of my patients have is that egg freezing is not something you can do while you're going about your everyday life," Malik said. "In reality, it's minimally disruptive. On average, it's about two weeks, with appointments early in the morning. It's very easy to balance."

Though, Malik noted women do need to take one day off from work for the egg retrieval surgery.

6. It is a time commitment.

Even though you're able to maintain your day-to-day life, there are things you will have to plan your life around, like the monitoring appointments every other day for about eight to 12 days, and planning to administer your shots at the same time every night.

You also might need to modify your workout schedule, and replace high-intensity exercises with more low-impact ones, like yoga or an elliptical machine.

"It's a good amount of effort and it's worth it, but you have to want to do it ... You have to show up," noted Caitlin Kendall, 41, of Florham Park, New Jersey, who had her eggs frozen when she was 38.

7. Realize you might need to do more than one cycle.

Deciding on how many eggs you want to freeze is complicated. Doctors will be able to help you decide on a goal number that you feel comfortable with, but that may require more than one cycle.

During her initial retrieval surgery, doctors were able to freeze five of Page's eggs. She plans to do one or two more rounds to try to freeze an additional five to 10 eggs.

"When I found out that after two weeks of injections and riding the emotional roller coaster (because of hormone injections) that I only had five eggs, I thought about not doing this again," said Page. "But it's not a high chance (of pregnancy) with just five frozen eggs ... I'm going to do it again."

8. Talking to other women can help.

"I was provided with a fertility support group through my doctor... (they) gave me advice, answered my questions and helped me confirm that this was the right choice for me," Lopez said.

She made her egg freezing journey public, sharing photos and updates on Facebook so other women thinking about going through the process would know they could ask her about it.

Caitlin Kendall turned to friends for support while going through the egg freezing process.

"Two of my friends had gone through IVF and they were incredibly helpful," said Kendall. "They were constantly checking in on me. I was going through (it) alone, and it was helpful to know I could call on them for advice."

9. There are no guarantees.

No matter how many eggs a woman decides to freeze, there is no number that will give her a 100 percent chance for pregnancy.

"I know there might come a day where I go through all of them and none of them stick," said Page. "But to me, that's still a better peace of mind than just living life and hoping that it happens."

NBC News correspondent Kristen Dahlgren was able to freeze 17 eggs at age 39. More than three years later, when she was ready to use those eggs, she had them flown from Los Angeles to New York. Only two of her eggs survived the thaw and after "one negative pregnancy test and thousands of dollars later," she wasn't pregnant and the eggs were gone.

"They said egg freezing would set me free. They were wrong," Dahlgreen wrote in an essay for TODAY.

10. It's OK if you decide this isn't right for you.

"Weigh your pros and cons," suggested Lopez. "Everyone is different, for some this is a no-brainer ... It's OK to see doctors, ask questions, talk to other women and make the choice not to do it if it doesn't feel right."

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