CHICAGO (WLS) -- A growing number of American women are taking their reproductive future into their own hands, including our own Cheryl Scott.
As part of her fertility journey, Scott underwent the process of freezing her eggs twice. It's a long, exhausting and emotional experience, but it's also one more and more women are going through.
Scott made the decision to freeze her eggs in February 2023. Along the way she chose to document and share her journey so that other women know they're not alone.
And they're not; a record number of women are choosing to freeze their eggs in preparation for a fertility journey at a later date.
"I think the reason it's skyrocketed is because women know this is an opportunity, and it's something they can do.," said Dr. Emily Jungheim of Northwestern Medicine. "It works."
In 2021, 25,000 egg freezing procedures were performed in the United States, up more than 31% form the year before. It's not an inexpensive procedure; it can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a cycle.
Despite that, more women are choosing to make the investment and more employers and insurance companies are offering coverage for fertility treatments.
"When you can freeze an egg, you freeze time. It allows you to get pregnant at a much higher rate if you freeze when you're younger. Less miscarriages, healthier babies," said Dr. Brian Kaplan, reproductive endocrinologist. "You need more eggs frozen, ideally, the older you are, because there's going to be higher attrition. And between 29 and 39, that drop off is dramatic."
Scott is in her late 30s. While she said she wishes she froze her eggs sooner, she landed her dream job and chose to focus on her career. Dr. Kaplan, her reproductive endocrinologist, assured her she still has time.
So she started the process. Each egg retrieval cycle involves about two weeks of hormone shots taken every night to stimulate the follicles in the ovaries.
"In a natural cycle, you only develop one follicle on your ovary, with potentially one egg. What we need to do is get as many of those follicles, as many eggs as we can," Kaplan explained.
Along the way were appointments for bloodwork, and ultrasounds to monitor the shots' progress.
After two long, uncomfortable weeks there is then a "trigger shot" to prep the body to release eggs at just the right time.
Thirty-six hours later, it's time for egg retrieval.
The actual retrieval is a short surgery performed under sedation. The eggs are then taken to the lab for evaluation and freezing.
While it was a tough process to go through, Scott said she feels proud and empowered to have made the choice to freeze her eggs.
While there is no guarantee this will result in a future baby, it does increase her chances of having children if her fertility is affected in the future.