Advantage- Frozen Embryos

When a couple begins their IVF journey at our clinic, the first thing we do is educate and counsel them. In many ways, this is the foundation of the procedure and what we discuss with them at the outset will help them get through some rough patches along the way. In addition to a slew of other details about the procedure, we also discuss the topic of frozen embryos with our patients.

As part of the IVF procedure, we harvest and then fertilize as many eggs as we can. This is the case regardless of whether you use your own eggs/ a donor’s eggs. If the number of embryos exceeds that which is required in a fresh embryo-transfer cycle, we cryogenically preserve the ones that are left; these will be used in future pregnancy attempts, if required. Not all patients will have spare embryos which are of good enough quality to freeze, but for those who are lucky enough to have these, we tell them to freeze them.

Some patients are reluctant to spend the additional money. They are worried that the pregnancy rates with frozen embryos are not good; or that the babies born with these will be abnormal. However, frozen embryos are worth their weight in gold.

There are many advantages to freezing embryos.

  • Additional Cycle Opportunities-As mentioned earlier, if your fresh cycle has been unsuccessful, the frozen embryos give you the opportunity to try again without really having to go through the entire rigmarole of taking the ovarian stimulation medication or having to go through another egg retrieval procedure
  • The Cost Factor- FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) cycles are far less expensive than fresh ones. This is because the medication and treatment costs are lower. The monitoring visits are reduced and there isn’t any requirement for egg retrieval or insemination or an embryo culture
  • Easier Cycles- FET cycles are much easier for most of our patients as there is no egg retrieval and no requirement for anesthesia. At the beginning of the FET cycles, we use estrogen injection to prepare the uterine lining; these are administered just once every 3 days. The daily intramuscular progesterone injections are added only a little later in your cycle
  • Reduces Risks of Ovarian Hyerstimulation Syndrome- We monitor our patients for OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome) and use various stimulation protocols that are specifically designed to prevent this from taking place. This is why ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is rarely ever seen in our practice and it occurs in a negligible number of patients.

However, if there are any cases where we see any potential warning signs which indicate that the patient is at risk of OHSS, we may recommend that all the remaining embryos be frozen, instead of continuing with that fresh transfer. It is possible for us to then transfer the embryos safely at a later stage, via FET

Your next baby

Once your IVF treatment is successful, you can also use these embryos to have your next baby, since frozen embryos don’t have a shelf life, and remain as good as new, even after many years. Our survival rate after thawing is nearly 100%, since we use the vitrification technique to freeze your embryos; and we freeze only top quality embryos.

This is not an inexpensive option, but is one that some couples do opt for.

After your family is complete

After you have completed your family, there is a chance that there will still be some leftover embryos; and you have to decide what you want to do with them. This becomes an extremely difficult decision for many couples; and they typically have a few options before them. They can choose to:

  • Donate their embryos to other infertile couples
  • Donate them to medical research
  • Thaw them and let the embryos pass on naturally

The Dilemma

It’s true that the decision is no less than a dilemma, and most couples find themselves at a crossroads when they are faced with having to make this decision.

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Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.