Thankfully the rate of complications from egg freezing remains very low. Egg freezing is a minimally invasive procedure that typically requires a sedative at the time of egg retrieval (you will get sleepy and lose consciousness but not be required to be under general anesthesia).
Eggs are retrieved from your ovaries using a long, thin aspiring needle. As with any procedure, complication can include infection or bleeding. There is also the potential for damage to the bowel, bladder, or a blood vessel. These complications are very rare and occur less than 1% of the time.
Before you’re ready for an egg retrieval, you’ll undergo a course of stimulating hormone treatment (typically for around two weeks). These medications are injectable and oral, and they produce different side effects. The good news is that only approximately 25% of women report any side effects at all. For the majority of women, there will be no side effects.
The side effects can include bloating, hot/cold flashes, headaches and mood swings. These side effects are associated with hormone fluctuation in the body and, not surprisingly, are therefore similar to the side effects of PMS around the time of your menstrual cycle. Some individuals describe it as “PMS on steroids.”
The more serious side effect attributed to the medications used in egg freezing is a condition known as Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome or OHSS. This impacts less than 5% of women, with less than 1% experiencing a severe case. As the name implies, your ovaries become “over stimulated,” or swollen, creating extreme discomfort. Additionally, there may be fluid build up in the abdomen. In rare but extreme cases, an ovarian torsion could occur, which would require surgery. For less severe cases, monitoring and bedrest would be prescribed.
The rates of OHSS have been falling as clinics develop better protocols to minimize this risk. Egg freezing patients are also closely monitored by their care team.
As described above, active treatment for egg freezing typically occurs over a two week period, after which side effects would abate completely within a few days in most cases.
We do not at this time have any evidence of long-term impacts of the egg freezing medications on your overall health. A 2014 study by Diergaarde and Kurta, for example, concluded no impact on ovarian cancer, while leaving the door open for future studies.