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Egg freezing is a major fertility topic. Here's what the process is like.

"Facing Fertility" Part 2: Egg freezing
"Facing Fertility" Part 2: Egg freezing 06:09

Erin Hanley knows she wants kids someday, but doesn't know how or when it will happen, which led her to freeze her eggs in the fall of 2020.

"I always wanted to have options so that I could make a choice later," the 33-year-old told CBS News.

Hanley isn't alone. Egg freezing is an increasingly popular procedure that people hope will give them options — even if it's not guaranteed to work. 

The procedure also costs thousands of dollars, making it a privilege for people who can afford it or have fertility insurance coverage.

Egg freezing involves about two weeks of hormone shots to stimulate the follicles in a woman's ovaries. Typically in a menstrual cycle, one follicle ovulates one egg in about a month. The goal with the shots is to get more follicles to produce eggs simultaneously, so multiple eggs can be retrieved at once.

The shots are usually done at home.

Hanley said she was "very nervous" the first time she had to give herself a shot. 

"You kind of mix your own solutions too and your shots so I laid them all out, had them on my counter and then I had a friend here and was like, 'Why don't you film me?'" she said.

Hanley took CBS News along on her journey through videos she recorded during the process.

She went to the doctor for bloodwork and ultrasounds to monitor her progress.

"The first couple of days I felt fine," Hanley said of the process. "I was getting really tired by day four probably and then also really bloated. You get very bloated."

Once the eggs are big enough, a procedure is done to retrieve them. Typically around 80% of the eggs are mature enough to be frozen.

For Hanley, of the 20 of her eggs that were retrieved, 14 ended up being frozen. 

The eggs can later be thawed and fertilized in an effort to make embryos. On average, only 30% become viable embryos, which could possibly lead to pregnancy.

"Whenever you're freezing eggs, you always have to remember that 14 eggs will not equate to 14 babies," said Dr. Rachel McConnell, a reproductive endocrinologist at Columbia Fertility Center in New York. She's not Hanley's doctor but was given permission to review her medical records.

"With her being 33 years of age and freezing at least 14 eggs that are mature, she is probably about an 80% chance of at least having one live birth from that group of eggs," McConnell said.

For women of all ages, the live birth efficiency from frozen eggs is 4%. In general this means 25 frozen eggs will yield one live birth, according to an NYU study published last year. 

McConnell said women should start thinking about their reproductive health at an early age, and doctors should start educating patients at age 25.

"There are techniques and tests they can do to be able to have some idea what their egg reserve is like," she said.

Hanley said her OB-GYN never talked to her about egg freezing or family planning.

"It's always been interesting to me that they don't talk to you about it, and send you a specialist," she said, adding she had some reservations about the option, including the cost.

Egg freezing can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a cycle, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

But despite the high cost, more women are choosing to make this expensive — and at times uncomfortable — investment.

ASRM estimates more than 12,000 people in the U.S. froze their eggs in 2020, nearly double from 2016. 

Hanley said the option of freezing her eggs gave her hope of having a baby one day.

"You don't know until you go in there either how your eggs are going to be. Are they viable? I don't know," she said. "So that was a concern for me — that I would actually go through this whole thing and then nothing happened after."

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