Fertility preservation techniques such as embryo freezing give women more options and flexibility when it comes to planning their family.
What is embryo freezing (embryo cryopreservation)?
Approximately 50% of patients have extra embryos following their IVF cycle. These embryos can be saved for future use, providing the opportunity for additional attempts at pregnancy from a single IVF cycle.
Women may consider freezing their embryos for social preferences, or cancer fertility reasons (where a woman freezes embryos prior to receiving radiation or chemotherapy treatments which may damage her eggs).
How does it work?
Vitrification is a method of cryopreservation that allows for the ultra-rapid cooling of embryos, preventing the formation of damaging ice crystals. Vitrified embryos have better post-thaw survival rates and can result in higher pregnancy and live birth rates.
Not all patients will have extra embryos for cryopreservation. Only good quality embryos are frozen as poorer quality embryos do not survive the freezing thaw cycle.
Patients are often able to collect a large number of eggs which results in many viable embryos. Any remaining embryos that are not transferred into the woman’s uterus after a fresh IVF transfer may be frozen or “cryopreserved” in small tubes and kept and stored in the laboratory for future use. Cryopreservation allows the patient to limit the number of embryos transferred “fresh” without discarding the unused embryos that could lead to a future pregnancy.
The embryos can be kept in storage for many years. Patients are often able to achieve several pregnancies from just one egg retrieval procedure. These frozen embryos can be transferred back with minimal preparation of the uterine lining. The correct transfer time is calculated based on the stage the embryo was frozen.
NewLife Fertility Centre has tremendous success with this procedure and currently has the highest success rate in the country for achieving a pregnancy from frozen embryo transfer.
Embryo freezing or cryopreservation allows embryos to be stored by cooling them to a very low temperature (-196oC) and storing them in liquid nitrogen. During the freezing process, the embryos are placed in solutions that gradually remove the water from their cells. This protects them from damaging ice crystal formation during freezing
When thawed, they are placed in a different series of solutions to add water back to the cells. These thawed embryos can then be transferred into the uterus during a frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle for another attempt at pregnancy, without having to undergo the entire IVF cycle. By this means the cost of treatment will be significantly reduced and without the risks of oocyte retrieval or ovarian hyperstimulation.
- Fertility preservation
- Genetic testing (CCS/PGS/PGD): embryos must be stored to await results
- Storage of surplus embryos from an IVF cycle
- Delay of embryo transfer for medical or other reasons after a fresh IVF cycle
You may be interested in the following articles:
Embryo Freezing Resources in Ontario
Get Your Questions About Embryo Freezing Answered
Fertility is incredibly complex. If you’re struggling to conceive a child through traditional means, you may find it challenging to navigate the wide variety of treatments and methods of getting pregnant. Fortunately, NewLife Fertility Centre is here for Ontario residents who are looking to learn more about their fertility options. We’re glad to educate our patients about a range of procedures, including embryo freezing. Our friendly team can tell you everything you need to know about the process, embryo freezing success rates, and alternative approaches. Below, we’ve answered some of our most frequently asked questions about this fertility option.
Who Should Consider Embryo Freezing?
If you’re struggling with fertility, freezing an embryo may be a viable choice for you. Many couples turn to the embryo freezing procedure if they haven’t been able to conceive a child after over two years of trying. We also recommend this option for people who fall into the following categories:
- LGBTQ+ couples who cannot have a child through traditional means
- People who take medication that impacts fertility
- Cancer patients who are about to begin chemotherapy
- Patients with genetic disorders that make conception difficult or impossible.
How Does Embryo Freezing Work?
The embryo freezing process has multiple phases. First, patients are prescribed a hormone medication which will be administered over eight to 12 days. During this time, the medication stimulates the ovaries and encourages the production of multiple eggs at a time. We wait for the eggs to mature, and they’re then collected during an egg retrieval procedure. Once the eggs are removed, we fertilize the batch with sperm from the male partner or donor. Successfully fertilized eggs become embryos after about five days. Finally, the newly-developed embryos are flash-frozen and stored away.
How Long Can Embryos Stay Frozen?
Usually, we recommend that embryos stay frozen no longer than 10 years. However, some women have been able to store their frozen embryos for decades longer. Some studies have indicated that frozen embryos will last indefinitely.
How Many Embryos Should I Store?
In most cases, you can store as many embryos as you feel comfortable with. When you choose to transfer the embryos into the uterus, it’s a good idea to transfer at least two. Speak with your medical doctor and provider at NewLife Fertility Centre for a more specific answer about your unique situation.
What If I’m Older Than 38?
Women who freeze their embryos after age 38 may have a reduced chance of a successful pregnancy once the embryos are transferred back into their uterus. However, there doesn’t seem to be a significant decrease in pregnancy rates for women who freeze embryos young and have them transferred when they’re older. In short, the viability of a frozen embryo is influenced by the age you are at the time of freezing, not the age at which you try for a pregnancy. If you’re over age 38, don’t hesitate to speak with our team about other methods of conception. We can discuss other treatments such as:
- Ovulation induction
- Intrauterine insemination
- Donor sperm
Is Embryo Freezing Safe?
Embryo freezing is quite safe. However, this fertility method is not without a few risks to be aware of. Some studies have shown a possible link between genetic abnormalities and children born via this procedure. As embryo freezing is a relatively new way to conceive, we do not fully understand potential long-term health effects. Women who become pregnant through embryo freezing may also have a greater chance of birth complications and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, though the latter is very rare.
How Much Does It Cost?
Embryo freezing and other similar fertility treatment tend to be costly. On average, egg freezing costs over $10,000 plus another few thousand for developing eggs into embryos. Keep in mind that you may need to pay an occasional fee to store the frozen embryos. Costs vary depending on your circumstances and clinic. At NewLife Fertility Centre, we make every effort to keep the embryo freezing cost down.
What Are the Benefits of an FET Cycle?
The frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle refers to the time you decide to implant the embryo into the uterus and try for a pregnancy. When compared with a fresh cycle, stimulated with in vitro fertilization, FET has plenty of benefits. Many couples choose this method because it requires less medication. Instead, an FET cycle uses estrogen and progesterone to prepare the uterus for a potential pregnancy. Other reasons opt for FET include:
- No need for anesthesia
- No additional egg retrieval procedure
- Less emotional and mental stress
- Have control over the number of embryos transferred
What Kind of Medications Will I Take During an FET Cycle?
In the time leading up to the FET cycle, you’ll take medication to decrease ovarian activity. This may be a type of birth control pill or a hormone injection. After about 10 days of taking this medication, we’ll administer the hormone estradiol. You can request that your doses of estradiol come from a pill, injection, or patch. Once you have high enough levels of estradiol, we’ll inject progesterone into the muscle or prescribe a pill. If the pregnancy is successful, you’ll continue to take estradiol and progesterone as prescribed. Should you have any concerns about these medications, feel free to address them with our staff.
How Is Egg Freezing Different?
Embryo freezing and egg freezing are often confused. While they aim for the same outcome, each procedure uses a different process. Embryo freezing involves fertilizing an egg and flash-freezing it once it becomes an embryo. Patients who choose egg freezing have their eggs frozen right away without being fertilized first. The question of egg freezing vs. embryo freezing is one best left to you and your fertility expert. Every patient is different, and we’ll make sure you get the personalized medical advice you need.
Which Procedure Is Better for Me?
There’s no good way to give accurate fertility advice without knowing your unique circumstances. What works for another couple may not be the right choice for you. If you’re considering egg or embryo freezing, we welcome you to meet with one of our fertility experts. We’ll consider your situation and recommend a treatment. Our team strives to provide personalized treatments for each of our patients.
Reach Out to Us with Additional Questions
Do you have additional questions about the cost of freezing an embryo or what to expect during the procedure? The team at NewLife Fertility Centre is always glad to listen to your concerns and provide answers to your questions. We know that struggling to get pregnant can be confusing, disheartening, and stressful, but we’re dedicated to being your rock during this difficult time. Our fertility care providers will work with you to choose the best treatment for your needs and family goals. Contact us today to set up your consultation at any of our Ontario locations.
We want to thank Dr. Alkurdi for everything she has done for us and helping us finally have our dreams of starting a family
We are so happy we went to Newlife !!! DR.Daya and his team were awesome. We genuinely felt like we mattered and the entire staff was rooting for us! We received important insights into our health and Dr. Daya took the time to carefully explain all processes and procedures. We…