Sunday, April 18, 2010

Egg freezing?

As I mentioned in my post about our IVF BFN follow up appointment, one thing we discussed with the RE was the possibility of freezing eggs. We are really undecided about what to do, so I would love any feedback you have.

First of all, a little background you need to know about us: we want to use all embryos that are created through IVF without freezing or discarding any. This means we did a limited fertilization of only 3 eggs in IVF #1, and plan to do the same in IVF #2. You can read more about why we are doing that here if you would like. Just know that this is important to us, so it will be useless to say, "Really, the best bet is to just freeze embryos...." :)

Since we only needed 3 mature eggs, our RE did a "minimal stimulation" cycle for IVF #1. The idea was why spend the extra money for medicine and run the risk of OHSS to retrieve a lot of eggs that would essentially go to"waste." (Although, could somebody with a high FSH (10.9) and moderate AFC (~10) get OHSS?) Anyway, at that time we had asked about egg freezing, but our RE said it is still very experimental and he can't recommend it. I also think we were just really hopeful that IVF #1 would work, so we didn't consider it further.

But as we talked about IVF #2, the idea came up again. Now that I know first hand how much time, money, and emotions go into an IVF cycle, the idea of egg freezing feels like we could "get more bang for our buck" while still operating within our ethical parameters.

Pros for egg freezing:
  • We could freeze eggs for future IVF attempts, whether after 3 failed fresh cycles now or for baby #2 down the road.
  • If they might be used for baby #2, this would be a way of potentially preserving my fertility. My FSH is high, darnit, and I'm only 28 (er...29 on Tuesday). Who knows how high it will be in 2 years?!
  • If we used frozen eggs in the future, the FE(gg)T cycle would be considerably less medicine, stress, and time than a fresh IVF cycle.
  • If we used frozen eggs in the future, the cost of a FE(gg)T cycle would be considerably less than a fresh IVF cycle.
  • My RE has offered to freeze the eggs and store them for 1 year for free.
  • There might even be enough eggs to freeze for more than 1 future cycle (for example, if we got 12 eggs, fertilized 3, and froze 9...that might be enough for 2-3 future attempts).
  • I guess all of this gives me a little extra "peace of mind." It's similar to the feeling of having some cash saved for a rainy day. We would have some eggs ready to go...
Cons for egg freezing:
  • My RE is not recommending it. In his opinion this is still very experimental, and he feels like he can't suggest it to a patient unless he knows through well documented medical studies that there is a reasonable amount of success, and he has not had enough success with it. The technology is not quite there yet.
  • I asked if his clinic has frozen eggs, and he said yes. But of all of the people whose eggs have been frozen, only two have come back to use their eggs....and they were unsuccessful. So a 0/2 track record at this point is not very encouraging.
  • I have read that some clinics are more advanced in this area than others, and it doesn't sound like my clinic is one of the "advanced" ones. My clinic does a high volume of IVF cycles per year and has high success rates, but it just doesn't seem like they moved aggressively into the egg freezing territory. Would it be worth it to try this at a clinic that hasn't done much of it? (But we are very happy at our clinic, and we do not feel like it would be worth it to switch clinics just to do egg freezing).
  • Even though it would be cheaper to do a FE(gg)T cycle and my RE has offered to freeze the eggs for free, there would still be additional costs (obviously). Is it worth it to pay the extra money when the odds of success seem rather low? ~$1,500 for extra medicine to retrieve as many eggs as possible + $2,200 for the FE(egg)T cycle + $650 for the 2nd year of egg storage = $4,350....for a gamble? On something our RE can't even give us our odds of success on? It is over half the price of a fresh cycle, but at least with a fresh cycle we have a 50% chance of success. (But, like I said in the "pro" section, we could *maybe* get more than one cycle's worth of eggs out of one round of egg freezing...which would lower the $4,350 number to maybe $3,000 per attempt).
As you can see, there are a lot of "maybes," but we have no idea how the attempt to freeze eggs would go. We might try to harvest a lot of eggs and still only get a small handful. We may have enough eggs to freeze, but they may not thaw well and we end up with none to use anyway (and I'm sure I would put a lot of hope into those frozen eggs, even if I tried not to). Or we may have some ready for a future FE(gg)T, but none fertilize and we are back to where we started. So many "ifs," just like the rest of dealing with infertility!

Thoughts? I know ultimately my DH & I are the only ones who can make this decision, but do you know anything else about egg freezing? Advice? What would you do if you were in my position?

23 comments:

Ami said...

Hillary, you bring up such great points. So that you have more information, I'll share briefly our story. On our first IVF cycle, I was blessed to have 18 eggs retrieved and fertilized. 15 of them made it beyond 3 days. I transferred 3 our first cycle and froze the rest which I was able to use in subsequent IVFs. I did not get pregnant on our first IVF (the fresh embryos). I did not get pregnant on the 2nd either (frozen). I DID get pregnant the 3rd time (frozen) but miscarried. I finally got pregnant with the triplets the 5th time (which was a fresh cycle). Our clinic was almost equally successful with fresh embryos as it was frozen, boasting very similar statistics.

If it makes it any easier for you, it may be worth discussing with your RE whether he would be willing to do a "compassionate transfer" in the event you no longer needed any frozen embryos you may have "left over." Some RE's will transfer your remaining frozen embryos back into your body at a point in your cycle where you would not be able to become pregnant, but that way those embryos come into the world from your body and they leave the world once again becoming a part of your body. Just a thought. :) Best wishes to you once again. I know it's a lot to think about.

Aussie Girl said...

That's so much to think about. We went through a similar process as we contemplated IVF. We decided to freeze eggs, although the technology wasn't great and we knew it would be less successful statistically (1/10 thaw successfully). As we approach our second full IVF cycle we are pleased to know that our clinic has introduced a new freezing process called 'vitrification'. Evidently this will vastly improve the survival of embryo, or in our case, the eggs during the thaw. For me, the FE(gg)T cycle without drugs is preferable in reserving my sanity. My concern for you is whether it is a good idea to freeze eggs with a clinic/doctor that doesn't support the practice and are not using the best technology available. This may ultimately reduce your odds much more than your FSH concerns. I could write so much more, but I won't! Feel free to email me via my blog if you want to talk it through further. :)

Heather said...

I soooo ocompletely understand your dillemmma. We are in the same boat, with 2 BFN (One fresh and one frozen) cylce. So we are beginning to start our 2nd fresh IVF sycle, and we know IVF is a numbers game. We intended to use every embryo also b/c they are our children, and we used all 5 and none took. But to limit yourself to only fertilizing three each time, is really lowering your chances of becoming pregant. I struggle with some decisions in this area too. But whatever we create, we will use.

As for the compassionate transfer, I say NO!!! That is just like killing your embryos, if you are giving them no chance to survive. I personally could never do that!!
If you would like to chat by email, please email me, as we seem to be on a similar journey with timing etc, and we have the same moral compass.
Best wishes to you both!
-Heather
http://sweetnessandme.blogspot.com

Betty Rubble said...

Knowing how you feel about embryo freezing I would say that this is the only freezing option.

0/2 isn't a large pool to make an educated decision about. Can you imagine the initial IVF data before Louise Brown was born? How many failures before success?

As you said this is a decision that only you and the hubby can make...so I just want to offer my support and will lift you up in prayers as you make this decision.

A said...

Hmm. I think if I were you, I'd forego the egg freezing, given that your RE isn't totally psyched about it, and that it only lowers the future cycle cost by $1300. (Not to mention the storage fee that Mr. A just thinks is obscene!!!) Although if you're really interested in it, maybe you could go talk to a clinic who specializes in it?

Have been praying for you :)

Elle said...

It's such a gray area. Only do it if you're 100% comfortable with it. It would have such a great benefit though, of preserving your fertility as you put it.

AplusB said...

The idea of "presevering" fertility is certainly one to be considered, especially with borderline FSH. I know for me, personally, this is something I think about a lot. It might be worth talking to another RE clinic to see if they have some additional thoughts/ideas. Either way, I'm sure you and DH will make the right decision for you.

Rach said...

Everything I have read suggests that eggs are very very fragile and that the freezing process is just too hard on them. Until they have better technology in this area I'm not sure it would be worth the extra money for meds and the monthly freezing costs.

Lindsay Payne said...

We were so lucky to have 30 eggs retrieved during my egg retrieval. Unfortunately, I developed OHSS and was unable to to a fresh transfer, so our only option was to freeze all of the eggs that had fertilized and survived (11). Fortunately, our clinic is very comfortable with freezing eggs and FET. In fact, my doctor told us that if the fertilized eggs make it through the freezing and thawing process, then they have a very high change of making it inside of you. We had to wait three months to do our FET due to the OHSS, and transferred three embryos last October. I am now pregnant with twins! We still have frozen embryos being held for us. Our doctor said we could use them, donate them to other couples, and/or donate them to science/research. He said they will last for 10+ years in the freezer. There are many clinics who specialize in this process, so you could always do further research before you make any decisions. It is such an emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, financial process! Best wishes - thinking of you!

ventingvagina said...

you might want to reach out to reena at http://stillwaitingformysunshine.wordpress.com/ as she is in the middle of an IVF cycle and she wanted to freeze eggs (but it didn't work out). she might have some guidance for you.

Life Happens said...

My opintion would be not to freeze since your RE isn't an 'advanced' facility and they haven't had any success with it. Just my opinion though.

I know through prayer, you guys will make the best decision for your family.

Hannah said...

What great points! My husband and I have the same concerns about freezing embryos. I'd be interested in freezing eggs too. I'll be praying for you as you weigh all these difficult decisions!

Andrea said...

My Advice: Go with your gut, just as you have before, sticking to your convictions :) Faith of the heart rarely steers you wrong.

As for the FSH, mine came in at 10.3 and my Dr. considers it to be borderline. Yours is too...we are squeaking in under the line.

In all honesty, from everything I have read and I'm obsessed with FSH numbers and IVF cycles, those with "borderline and High" FSH do not produce as many eggs, thus therefore the possibility of many to freeze is less. However, you never know how well you will stim, so its just a gamble. Wish I were more help :)

Good Luck and I am lifting you up in prayer!

xoxo

andreajennine said...

I'm very pro freezing eggs, since I now have a 5 week old conceived on an FE(gg)T cycle (after 3 previously failed IVF cycles)! Of course, the fact that your RE and clinic aren't very experienced with egg freezing is a definite con, like you say.
I'm not actually sure how experienced my own RE was with it. When I initially researched the idea, everything I read said it was still too experimental and not worth trying. So I didn't even ask about it. But when we explained that we didn't want to freeze embryos, our clinic immediately offered the idea of freezing eggs, to my surprise. And it worked!
We now have about 10 additional frozen eggs in storage that we may use in the future. To me, the storage fees - though not cheap - are worth the preservation of what may be our only means to have future children.
For what it's worth, the top REs in our area wanted nothing to do with freezing eggs. The clinic where I finally got pregnant (using frozen eggs) had great stats but saw fewer patients.
Also, I should mention that I was a very high responder for the IVF cycles leading up to the one where we froze eggs, so that definitely influenced our decision to try it out.
Email me if you have questions!

Cath said...

My clinic has had success with frozen eggs.

http://www.shadygrovefertility.com/newsitem/fertility-preservation-shady-grove-fertility

Melissa G said...

Hill I wish I had some good advice for you, but you make a great argument either way...

At least these ladies have some experience and information to offer.

Hugs.

Erin said...

If I were you, I wouldn't do it. I don't think that your FSH is that high...the FSH level can be variable.

Are you still having the irregular bleeding? Did you ever get an answer to that?

Also, did the surgery help your husband's count and motility? I can't remember...if not, maybe a second opinion for him? I know that made all the difference for us...

Amanda said...

Hey Hillary, don't know if you are planning on posting today or not, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope you get to do something fabulous today!

One Who Understands said...

First I want to say Happy Birthday!! I hope 29 is a very happy year for you.

My personal opinion on the egg freezing thing, I wouldn't do it. The cons seem to outweigh the pros. But maybe having frozen eggs would give you more peace of mind and your IVF cycle would be more successful.

IF brings so much stress. I am sorry this is another thing to add to the pile. I hope you and your hubby can pray and find the right decision for you two.

stillwaitingformysunshine said...

Hi! You know about my experiences with the egg freezing...my clinic says that the #s are low for them thawing properly. if this cycle doesn't work for us I'll need to start the whole stim thing again-since we hardly got any eggs, if I got 10-15 eggs then I may try to freeze them. it's such a gamble cause the science isn't there yet...i'll keep you filled in on anything else i find out! xo

Sarah said...

Hi Hilary. I've been reading your blog for awhile. I've been hesitant to comment b/c I know there are so many ethical and moral things to think about when going through IVF and everyone is going to have a different opinion. As a Christian who feels convicted that life begins when sperm meets egg, I do understand how you feel. That said, I can understand how some people may feel it's not the same if it's not inside your womb.
For me, and what I will tell you, is that if you truly believe that God is sovereign than just believe that God will not give you more than you need. You could get pregnant with twins and have four embryos left over for example. But, that doesn't mean you will get pregnant with any of those embryos.
Based off of what you seem to feel passionate about, I would still encourage you to freeze and just pray for God to work it out. Because you know what? He knows how this journey end for you. He would never give you anything you couldn't handle. Trust and have faith in the ONE who is truly creating these babies. Although doctors might be helping, it is still up to God!! He is still the creator.
If you would like to talk more and I can tell you more specifics of my story you can e-mail me at sarahantweiler@yahoo.com
All this said, I will pray that God and God alone gives you a peace as to what to do. If you enter into it with prayer, then you will make the right decision. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or advices. I will also pray for you my sister in Christ.
Hugs,
Sarah

addingtothepack said...

Happy Birthday! I hope it's a great day.

I guess, if I was in your shoes, I'd consider freezing if I managed to get a real boat load of eggs (more than a dozen) but I wouldn't pay to freeze only a few given the low success rates. Also, I know you did a mini-stim for the first IVF because you weren't trying to get that many eggs -- but if you did a full stim cycle and had a good response maybe that alone would be enough to give you some peace of mind about your ability to produce with high FSH? (and as a result maybe feel like you don't need to freeze the extra eggs from the point of preserving fertility?).

~The Vreeken Family~ said...

2 years ago we went through our first round of IVF. I developed OHSS, which was very painful for weeks, but the cycle resulted in a successful pregnancy. We also decided to freeze our remaining 4 embryos if it hadn't worked or to try for another baby down the road. Now, we are preparing to start our 2nd round of IVF with our frozen embryos. We know there is every chance that those little embryos may not survive the thawing process, but then again they might. For me, I'm extremely glad we have them fozen and ready for us, not just because the fees will be less this time, but I won't have to take as many hormones and we did ICSI due to our fertility issues and my husband had to endure a surgery as well. For us, it made sense.

But this was our decision...when it comes down to it, this is for you two to decide as its your bodies, your family, your money, your emotions.