Before you go to your first fertility consultation, write down these questions to ask your provider.
Depending on your medical history, current health status, and age, the chances of success can vary drastically. Ask your doctor what your specific chances of success are based on your personal situation. A few things that can affect your chances:
Low ovarian reserve
Medical conditions (endometriosis, PCOS, etc.)
Male factor infertility (for IVF)
These are some examples of things that can play a role in the outcome of your cycle, but there are many other factors that can affect the ovaries’ response to medication, the quality of the eggs or embryos, the uterine lining, the ability for the egg to be fertilized or for the embryo to implant, and the success of a pregnancy. Your doctor can interpret general statistics to apply more specifically to your odds of success.
It’s quite common to need more than one cycle to collect the number of eggs needed to create your desired family size. Research shows that 45% of patients get pregnant after completing 3 IVF cycles. That being said, there are people who get pregnant after just a single cycle.
The same goes for egg freezing. Some patients freeze enough eggs in their first cycle, but the large majority do multiple treatment cycles to be able to freeze a larger quantity of eggs, giving them more chances to create embryos in the future.
The number of IVF or egg freezing cycles recommended to you will also depend on your ovarian reserve, age, and desired number of children. Don’t be surprised that your doctor will often recommend more than 1 cycle.
What does an IVF or egg freezing cycle consist of and how long does it take?
One cycle consists of about 10 to 14 days of ovarian stimulation medications followed by an egg retrieval procedure. After the egg retrieval, you’ll know how many eggs were retrieved and can discuss with your doctor if you would like to go forward with another cycle.
If you want to take a more detailed look at what goes on during an IVF cycle, check out our article IVF: What to Expect From Start to Finish.
If you’re interested in learning more about egg freezing, we talk all about it in Egg Freezing 101: The Basics of Fertility Preservation
Before getting started with egg freezing or embryo freezing, you may want to know where and how the clinic will store your tissue. Some clinics store the tissue onsite within the fertility clinic. Others use third party storage facilities like TMRW Life Sciences or HavenCryo. It’s also good to ask how much the annual storage fees are so you can factor that into your budget.
The ovarian stimulation stage of IVF and egg freezing can come with many side effects. The main side effects that people experience are bloating, soreness and bruising at the injection sites, moodiness, anxiety, and headaches. Ask your doctor if you might be especially prone to any of these or any other side effects based on your medical history.
Note: Ask your doctor about your risk of OHSS
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome or OHSS is a rare, but serious side effect of both egg freezing and IVF. OHSS most often occurs in people who have high egg numbers and high estrogen levels. This is usually (but not limited to) younger people and people with PCOS. According to Cleveland Clinic, OHSS occurs in “less than 5% of ovarian stimulation cycles and severe cases of the condition happen in less than 1%”.
OHSS is a very extreme response to the ovarian stimulation medications causing severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, extreme bloating, and shortness of breath. Talk with your doctor about your risk of OHSS and if there is anything that you can do to help to lower your risk.
You can also check out our article all about how to cope with the side effects of ovarian stimulation!
Your doctor may not know the breakdown of the exact cost of your treatment plan, but your clinic will have a financial coordinator who can walk you through the fees. After your consultation and initial testing, your doctor will be able to decide on a protocol for you. The protocol will detail which medications you will need. Once you have your protocol information, the clinic staff can guide you through pricing for the treatment process and medications.
Clinics might be aware of financial assistance programs, rebates for medications, pharmacies that offer discounted medications, or fertility grants. Always advocate for yourself financially and ask if they know of any of these options that may apply to you.
Financial planning for fertility treatment can be daunting. We broke down the cost of IVF and found some resources that can help to manage the financial burden in our article, The Cost of IVF: A User Guide to Financial Planning.
If you’re looking for help covering the cost of your medications, Compassionate Care is a great resource for those in financial need.
It’s critical to know who you’ll be talking with throughout the treatment process, especially since you’ll likely be chatting with them frequently once you start treatment. Every clinic has a different way of communicating information to the patient. Ask who you can call if you have questions and how you can expect your instructions and lab results to be communicated to you regularly.
Some patients are surprised by how little they get to talk to their doctors once treatment starts. In many cases a nurse or a team of nurses will be your primary point of contact. You may want to ask how you can set up a time to speak with your doctor if you want to discuss questions or concerns outside of your normal contact person.
Remember that the clinic staff and doctors are there to work with you as a patient. You should always feel empowered to ask questions regarding their processes, your treatment and results, and anything else that affects your experience as a patient. Knowing what questions to ask will help you stay informed and give you the power to be your own best advocate during your fertility journey.