Cryopreservation, or freezing, of embryos is a common procedure
Since multiple eggs (oocytes) are often produced during the ovarian stimulation step of in vitro fertilization, IVF, on occasion there are more embryos available than are considered appropriate for transfer to the uterus. These embryos, if viable, can be frozen for future use in a frozen embryo transfer, FET. Embryo cryopreservation saves the expense and inconvenience of additional stimulation to obtain additional eggs in the future.
Furthermore, the availability of cryopreservation permits patients to increase the chance of having one or more pregnancies from a single cycle of ovarian stimulation. Couples can also minimize the cost by decreasing the number of stimulated cycles and egg retrievals. Cryopreserving embryos is also indicated to temporarily delay embryo transfer when a patient is at risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
Additionally, embryo freezing is an option for couples who are concerned that their future fertility may be compromised due to necessary medical treatment, such as cancer therapy or surgery.
What you should know before embryo cryopreservation
Frozen embryos do not always survive the process of freezing and thawing. However, the technology of vitrification for embryo cryopreservation has significantly improved the survival rate. Pregnancy success rates for cryopreserved embryos transferred into the uterus have been shown to be similar or even better than a fresh IVF cycle.
Thawed cryopreserved embryos can be:
Transferred in a primed/medicated cycle (best chance of pregnancy)
Transferred in a natural cycle (least expensive option, but less chance of pregnancy)
Donated to another couple
Transferred to a long term facility
A common concern of many patients due to ethical or religious convictions is not wanting to freeze any embryos at all. In this case, we would simply fertilize only the maximum number of eggs harvested at retrieval that we would transfer. The remaining unfertilized eggs would be frozen with the option of fertilizing them as needed.
Storage of frozen reproductive material
We will facilitate temporary storage for frozen embryos that are going to be used for IVF cycles at our Fertility Answers labs. Typically, temporary storage is designed for reproductive material that will be stored for six months or less. During this time, your embryos are stored in cryotanks that are protected by backup generators. Additionally, our trained embryologists carefully monitor all frozen reproductive material.
If you do not plan to use your embryos within six months, long-term storage of frozen reproductive material is the best option. In this case, your reproductive material will be transferred into long-term storage at an Ovation Fertility facility where it will receive 24-hour monitoring. Ovation Fertility is an industry leader that utilizes leading-edge equipment and purpose-built facilities for freezing and storage. See FAQs for long-term storage customers.
You and your partner have important decisions to make regarding cryopreservation
Embryo cryopreservation can create ethical and legal dilemmas when couples separate or divorce or a partner dies. Before deciding to freeze embryos, having an agreement between the two partners is essential. In Louisiana, no viable embryos are ever discarded. Prior to doing IVF, patients will sign a consent and statement outlining their choice with regard to disposition of embryos in the event of separation or death.
Additionally, storage of cryopreserved reproductive material incurs a fee. When your embryos are initially frozen you will activate your account with Ovation Fertility for long term storage. It is the responsibility of each couple with frozen embryos to remain in contact with the clinic on an annual basis.