When a sperm enters an egg, the egg becomes fertilized and then develops into an embryo. For in vitro fertilization (IVF), eggs are retrieved from the female and sperm are collected from the male to create the embryo(s). For one reason or another, patients may not be ready for embryo transfer immediately, or, if more than one viable embryo is created, patients may want to preserve the embryo(s) that are not immediately transferred for future use.
At Reproductive Fertility, we provide patients with the opportunity to freeze and store their healthy embryos to be used when the timing is right for them.
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Dave and Yvette L.
I wanted to say thank you to the entire staff for making us feel welcome to our first visit especially on a Saturday. We met with Dr. Sadaat and was very informative and took time with us with all of our questions. For the financial department, Melissa was very helpful with keeping in contact with us regarding any paperwork that we needed as well as with setting our appointment. We do look forward for treatment with Dr. Saadat.”Read Patient Testimonials
What Are the Benefits of Embryo Freezing?
Lowers the Risk of Multiple Pregnancies
For IVF, multiple eggs are fertilized, but only one embryo (or a limited number of embryos) is generally transferred to the uterus at a time. By limiting the number of embryos transferred in an initial cycle, the risk of multiple pregnancies is lowered, and patients have the chance to get pregnant with a future IVF cycle using their frozen embryos.
Helps Eliminate the Expense of Additional Embryo Cultures
After IVF, patients may be left with one or more embryos that cannot be immediately placed into the uterus. Freezing the embryos for later use eliminates the expense of having to undergo additional egg and sperm retrieval and embryo culture.
Allows for Preimplantation Genetic Testing
A preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) screening can be performed to test an embryo for genetic diseases and chromosomal disorders. This technique requires the embryos to be frozen while the results are developed, and it has a 98 percent accuracy rate.
A woman’s ovarian reserve decreases as she ages, so attempting to start a family at a later time could be difficult. A single woman may choose donor sperm and freeze her embryos, or a couple could freeze their embryos to start a family later when they are ready. Embryo freezing can also benefit those with a disease that affects their eggs or sperm or those with early-stage cancer who need radiation or chemotherapy.
How Is Embryo Freezing and Subsequent Embryo Transfer Done?
Embryos are frozen in the IVF laboratory in special holding containers (freezing straws) in which they are suspended in a small volume of supporting medium and a special freezing solution (cryoprotectant).
During the freezing process, the embryos are brought to a temperature of -196 ºC (-321 ºF) and submerged in liquid nitrogen in storage tanks. The embryos may be frozen at any stage of development within the first five days after fertilization, whether the embryo is just a few cells or 100 cells.
Embryo Thawing and Transfer
Embryo transfer is scheduled based on the female patient’s menstrual cycle. The embryos are thawed and evaluated before being transferred into the uterus via a thin catheter through the cervix.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can freezing embryos damage them?
A small proportion (about 20 percent) of embryos suffer sufficient damage during freezing and are no longer viable once they thaw. The embryos are evaluated after thawing to ensure normal development and appearance (morphology) before transfer. Rarely, all of the couple’s frozen embryos are found to be non-viable, and the transfer is canceled.
Does freezing embryos reduce their viability and chances of achieving pregnancy once they are thawed and transferred?
When embryos are frozen, their likelihood of producing a pregnancy is reduced. However, patients who fail to achieve pregnancy with fresh embryos may become pregnant during subsequent embryo transfers using their frozen embryos.
How long can I keep my embryos frozen for?
The embryos can be kept in liquid nitrogen indefinitely.
Is embryo freezing always done with in vitro fertilization?
No, embryo freezing is not a necessary party of the in vitro fertilization process. It is an elective decision that must be made prior to beginning IVF treatments.
How much does embryo storage cost?
The costs associated with egg freezing, cryopreservation, storage, and thawing are separate from those associated with in vitro fertilization treatment, and insurance coverage may not cover those costs. Before you begin an in vitro fertilization cycle, all potential fees for embryo freezing and storage will be discussed with you.
Are there any risks or issues involved with embryo freezing?
There is a possibility that the frozen embryos may not survive the freezing and thawing process or that a pregnancy will not occur. Dr. Saadat will be happy to go over any concerns or questions you may have during your consultation.
Are there any alternatives to freezing my excess embryos?
There are several alternatives to freezing and storing your embryos. These include:
- Implanting all fertilized eggs into the female patient’s uterus, subject to the physician’s medical opinion as to the maximum number of embryos that can be transferred safely.
- Discarding the excess embryos not transferred in the initial cycle.
- Allowing excess embryos to be adopted.