3 facts most people get wrong about egg freezing

3 facts most people get wrong about egg freezing
A Stanford IVF nurse and doctor dispel common misconceptions around egg retrieval — a procedure that removes eggs from the ovaries. These eggs can then be frozen for future use or fertilized with sperm to create embryos.
Written by Dave Gennert, PhD candidate, and Christina Ren, MS, CGC 
Medically reviewed by Cristina Vidal, RN, and Dr. Ruben Alvero, MD
  • Cristina Vidal, RN, is the IVF-Donor-Surrogate nurse coordinator at Stanford Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility with over 20 years of experience in the fertility and reproductive clinic.
  • Dr. Ruben Alvero, MD, is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Division Director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Stanford University Medical Center. 

Orchid offers advanced genetic testing for couples who want their child to have the best shot of a healthy life. As part of our “Pregnancy and Fertility” series, we talked with fertility nurse Cristina Vidal, RN, and reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Ruben Alvero, MD, on the most common misconceptions they hear from patients about the egg retrieval process. 

Myth #1: Egg retrieval reduces the number of eggs in a woman’s ovaries, resulting in early menopause.

Reality: Dr. Alvero tells us, “No, an egg retrieval does not accelerate menopause. These are eggs that are going to go away anyway,” so IVF uses eggs that would otherwise die off.

To explain why this is true: women in their 20s and 30s typically have hundreds of thousands of eggs in her ovaries. During every menstrual cycle, 15 to 30 eggs start to develop and mature. Of all of those maturing eggs, however, “your body selects the eggs for ovulation each month. Typically only one egg is fully developed and ovulated,” Cristina said. 

If sperm doesn’t fertilize the ovulated egg, your body sheds the uterine lining along with the egg during your period or “time of the month.” 

During IVF and egg retrieval, the ovaries are stimulated, but all of the stimulated eggs are kept from ovulating. The dozens of eggs that would usually “die-off” now reach maturity and can be collected.  

According to Cristina, egg retrieval “doesn’t mean that we are taking all the eggs that your body will use for future menstrual cycles. You will have the same number of eggs in reserve within your ovaries for future periods.”

Myth #2: Egg retrieval is a very risky procedure.

Reality: While every medical procedure carries certain risks to the patient, egg retrieval is very safe.  

“Complications are rare,” Cristina told us, saying the rates of possible complications, such as infection or bleeding, are at less than 0.1% of patients. Additionally, Cristina said, “anesthesia is used to minimize discomfort and avoid patients moving during the procedure,” helping the process go as smoothly as possible for both the patient and care team.

Myth #3: Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome often occurs during egg retrieval.

Reality: Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a condition that may arise with hormone medications to stimulate the ovaries, is much less common now than in the past.  

Cristina tells us, “In the old days, we used to have more patients who developed hyperstimulation symptoms with the fertility meds, like abdominal bloating, weight gain, pain, nausea and vomiting. We'd have to follow up with them very closely during their cycle and after the egg retrieval. But today, we rarely see bad side effects from the stimulation medications anymore.”

Modern IVF protocols prevent hyperstimulation syndrome by:

  • Frequent estrogen hormone blood tests to adjust stimulation medication dosages as needed all the way
  • Nutrition guidance of a high protein diet and increased fluid intake in preparation for the start of treatment 
  • Some medications to decrease the effects of the stimulation medications. “Prevention is the key, and I will say to patients, ‘rarely do you get really bad side effects.’ Some patients only experience very mild hyperstimulation,” said Cristina.

The takeaway here is that hyperstimulation can be largely avoided and eliminated with close monitoring and medication dosage adjustments. 

Fertility treatment and reproductive medicine have come a long way since IVF was first introduced over 40 years ago. Today, advanced embryo testing is now available to couples who want their child to have the best shot of a healthy life. Explore how Orchid helps you conceive with confidence.

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