All of your questions about egg freezing, answered.
So first of all, I guess how much did it cost?
It’s about $15,000 per cycle. Your doctor might estimate you’ll only need one cycle, but you won’t know until after your first surgery how many you’ll need, and by that point you might feel pressured to continue, so assume a worst case scenario when you start: $30,000-45,000 all-in. Then you should figure out how much of that your employer will cover — they might split that into the number of cycles (e.g., “we cover 2 cycles”) or the total dollar amount (e.g., “we cover $20,000 over your lifetime”). Keep in mind you’ll likely have to pay for storage (the most generous employers usually only cover 2-3 years of storage maximum). Plus it will cost money if or when you want to use your eggs in the future.
In the United States, egg freezing is pretty unaffordable unless your employer covers it (you can figure that out in advance by checking with human resources or calling the customer service phone number on the back of your insurance card — ask about your “fertility preservation benefit”). But it’s also very typical for couples to spend $60,000 or more out-of-pocket doing in-vitro fertilization (“IVF”), so the lower cost of egg freezing vs. IVF may feel worth it to you.
You can also look into Egg Freezing Vacation Trips where you go to other countries where the cost is lower (closer to $5,000 all-in).
I didn’t realize that fertility treatments were covered by insurance. Do employers cover it as part of insurance or is it some other benefit they offer?
Comprehensive health insurance plans don’t typically cover egg freezing unless you have a cancer diagnosis where your cancer treatment would cause you to become infertile.
Employers often have “lifetime fertility benefits” in a fixed dollar amount:
If you have this coverage, the bills (or in insurance speak, “claims”) are going to look like they run through insurance (for example, an Aetna claim will show that Aetna is covering it); however, it’s completely up to your employer whether or not they want to provide any money for this. Also, at many companies, this benefit can only be used for IVF and not for egg freezing, so you have to check. It’s a large enough amount of money that it’s worth it to switch jobs if you can.
If you happen to be living with someone you are dating, you can access the benefits if their job offers benefits for domestic partners, even if you aren’t married.
How can I check which companies offer this benefit or not?
Companies don’t typically advertise this (unless it’s a big selling point in recruiting). You will have to already work for a company in order to figure it out, or you would have to have a job offer and be comfortable asking the recruiter for additional information about the company’s benefits.
Here’s an email script you can use to start out:
“Hi, I’m trying to understand our benefits better. Can you send me the Summary Plan Description (“SPD”) for my plan? And can you tell me if you cover fertility treatment?”
If you’d like help figuring out what your company or your partner’s company covers, click here.
Now aside from the payment stuff, what is the process logistically? Is it a surgical process?
Yes, it is a surgical process. We recommend that you find a doctor (in this case, a reproductive endocrinologist) who can provide care for your situation. However, we are outlining the logistics below for a typical egg freezing cycle, assuming everything goes according to plan.
Preparation: You’ll have an initial consultation with your doctor who will tell you whether you are a suitable candidate for the egg freezing process. This may include bloodwork and an ultrasound. Some doctors may advise you that you cannot be on any kind of birth control while undergoing the process. If you can, you’ll want to start the process as close to the beginning of your insurance plan year as possible — you’d hate to have to hit your deductible twice!
Stimulation Phase: Once you’ve found a clinic and acquired all of the prescription drugs suggested by your doctor, you’ll start a multi-week phase where you are taking drugs every day (the “Stimulation Phase”) leading up to the surgery. Depending on what your doctor advises, you’ll be taking 1-3 types of prescription drugs – these are typically drugs that you will inject, usually into your stomach or thigh. With some of these drugs, you might need to mix them yourself. Your doctor or clinic may offer classes teaching you how to do all of this yourself at home. If you strongly do not want to administer your own drugs, you may be able to go into the clinic to do this, or you may be able to pay extra to hire a home nurse aid.
Monitoring: Depending on your doctor’s advice, you will be asked to come into the clinic or facility during your Stimulation Phase to give blood samples and receive ultrasounds. Your doctor will look at the results of these tests to see how your body is reacting to the drugs, and they will use this to determine your surgery date. They might also adjust your drug dosages based on your test results. Some clinics will have you come in every day, whereas others may only require once every few days, but it’s a good idea to choose a clinic where the commute is convenient from your home or your office.
Surgery: Then there is a final shot you give yourself the night before the surgery (the “Trigger Shot”). While you can give yourself most of the other shots, you may want to ask a close friend or family member to give you your Trigger Shot if it needs to be an intramuscular injection (for example, in the buttocks). Per your doctor’s guidance, you’ll report to the surgery facility the following day. If there are no complications, the surgery itself will take less than 30 minutes.
Recovery and Results: You should speak with your doctor regarding your expected recovery time from your surgery. After your surgery, your doctor or clinic will contact you to let you know how many eggs were retrieved. At this point, you will decide whether you want to undergo an additional cycle. You will likely have a final consultation with your doctor after your surgery, even if you are only undergoing one cycle.
What is it like healthwise? How will I feel, and are there any side effects?
We can only advise you on the financial planning aspect of your egg freezing process. If you’d like to learn more about the medical care, we would advise you to consult a doctor.