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Is the egg freezing process painful? Are there any side effects?

4 fertility expert(s) answered this question

Answer from: Melvin H. Thornton, Associate Professor

Gynaecologist, Medical Director & IVF Director Global Fertility & Genetics
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The egg freezing process is pretty straightforward. It’s not painful. However, it does involve daily injections of hormonal treatment. The hormones that you’re injecting are hormones designed to get multiple eggs to grow at the same time so that we can retrieve them and freeze them. Typically, the number of injections you take on the whole course of the process is about 10 to 12 days of injections and most of these injections are in pen form. There are some medications that your doctor may recommend you have to mix, but most of them are in pen form – it’s pretty straightforward.

The injection goes around the stomach area, around the umbilicus, the egg retrieval itself – here in the US, about 95 of all egg retrievals are done under IV sedation, which is a medication that puts you into a nice little nap while we’re doing the procedure vaginally with an ultrasound. Then once you’re done you wake up with mild cramping and that’s about it. Some women prefer not to have any anesthetic at all and they would prefer to have a local anesthetic. If you want to have local anesthesia, you can but that’s designed for someone that only has 2-3 eggs that you’re trying to retrieve. Someone who has anywhere over 8-10 eggs should definitely consider going IV sedation.

Overall, the process is not very painful, the retrieval itself afterward may have some minor cramping but it is what we call a same-day procedure, you come in in the morning, you have the procedure and go home right afterward. By the next day after the procedure you’re back to normal.

Answer from: Jessica Subira, M.D. Consultant in Gynecology, Sub-specialist in Reproductive Medicine

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The process is quite straightforward and of course you can have side effects of the hormonal medication that we will be using. The most common ones are abdominal bloating, period pain like mild, moderate, sometimes headache and mood swings but I mean not all the patients experience this. There is a lot of variability on that and of course they are completely reversible so once you will stop the medication and then you get your period afterwards then you will go back to normal. Most of the time during all the process you can have a normal life, carry on with your normal life. Luckily we don’t have now the risk of what we call OHSS or hyperstimulation syndrome because we can now use medications that completely avoid that risk. We don’t have to worry about that anymore even if you have a high response which of course we expect you to have and that will be something that we would like to achieve in order to freeze many eggs. In terms of what would be the actual oocyte retrieval, it’s a process that is also quite simple and straightforward. It’s like a surgical technique but of course I mean as all the surgical techniques there are reported complications although the percentage is very very low. It’s less than 0.5 percent of cases medics include infection, hemorrhage and injury to other organs but very very very unlikely. In general it’s a very simple and straightforward and safe process and then you  may only need to take a couple of days for the oocyte retrieval to recover and then carry on with your life.

Answer from: Maria José Mendiola, MD, MSc in Human Genetics, MSc in Science Communication, ObGyn

Gynaecologist, Gynaecologist in Reproductive Medicine & Reproductive Genetics Clínica Monterrico
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First, we should know that most women don’t experience pain during the stimulation process although some women do experience some cramping, pain, headaches with swings due to hormone fluctuation.  Additionally because most of the medications used in egg freezing are given by the injection, the injection site could become sore, red or slightly bruised. The risk during the egg freezing cycle is over stimulating the ovaries. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome which is more common in hyper-responsive patients. This is not common, this happens in about 5% of IVF and freezing cycles. In severe forms it can be dangerous and can occur in less than 1% of cases but we should be calm because these risks are minimized with a short protocol of the stimulation with antagonists and also with the trigger by means of an agonist. The evaluation is important to minimize risk and perform a timely intervention. The egg retrieval usually is performed after 10 to 14 days after the cycle begins. Usually the patient is sedated in rare cases there may be excessive bleeding from the ovaries or injuries to organs close to the ovaries but that is so rare, for example the bladder or some blood vessels. Another risk is pelvic infection but I have to say that this is very rare because women who use public transportation are at more risk of this complication but this should be assessed by your physician to have the best protocol to have this risk very very very low.

Answer from: Bárbara Silvera Gijón, Embriologist

Embryologist, Embriologist Quirónsalud Valencia
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The egg freezing procedure isn’t uncomfortable, you Will have to inject hormones, with a tiny needle, these  hormones are designed to get multiple eggs you grow at the same time in your period, so these hormones can feed all the follicles and not only one. You Will have to take injections for about 10 to 12 days, the time that the procedure lasts. The medication is easy to use, and the injection goes around the stomach. The procedure isn’t painful because it is done under sedation. You usually come in the morning at 8 and at 10-11 you are going home, so it is a short procedure.  

Egg freezing carries various risks, including:

  • Conditions related to the use of fertility drugs. Rarely, use of injectable fertility drugs, can cause your ovaries to become swollen and painful soon after ovulation or egg retrieval (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome). Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrheas. Even rarer is the possibility of developing a more severe form of the syndrome that can be life-threatening. But we make all the ultrasounds and try to give the minimum possible dose for this to not happen, it is not very common but is one of the side effects. 
  • Egg retrieval procedure complications. Rarely, use of an aspirating needle to retrieve eggs causes bleeding, infection.
  • Emotional risks. Egg freezing can provide hope for a future pregnancy, but there’s no guarantee of success. Also the hormones can affect your mood. 
  • This procedure is considered to be minor surgery. Nonetheless, it is still a surgical procedure done under anestesia, and both the surgery and the anestesia carry potential risks.
About this question:

Are there any side effects of freezing me eggs?

The process of oocyte freezing (egg cryopreservation) involves hormonal stimulation through injections to produce as many eggs as possible, collecting the eggs from the ovaries, freezing the eggs in the laboratory, and storing them in sub-zero temperatures.

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Fertility Road Magazine
The only magazine devoted to IVF and donor conception!​
15 articles & 68 pages of "All About IVF"