The Science Behind Freezing Embryos: Freezing Your Embryos and How Does It Work?

November 1, 2023

The Science Behind Freezing Embryos: Freezing Your Embryos and How Does It Work?

The thought of freezing embryos may seem complex and overwhelming, but it has helped countless couples start a family. We will be delving into the science behind freezing embryos and explaining how it works to assist you in making informed decisions about your fertility journey.

What is embryo freezing?

Embryo freezing, also known as cryopreservation, is a process that allows couples to preserve their embryos for future use. This technique involves carefully freezing embryos at very low temperatures to halt their development. By freezing embryos, individuals or couples can give themselves more time and options for family planning.

How does embryo freezing work?

The process of embryo freezing typically begins with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI), where eggs are retrieved from the woman's ovaries and sperm is collected from the man. These eggs are then fertilised with the sperm in a laboratory setting, and the resulting embryos are monitored for quality and development.

Once deemed suitable for cryopreservation, the embryos are rapidly cooled using a technique called vitrification. Vitrification involves immersing the embryos in a cryoprotectant solution before flash-freezing them in liquid nitrogen. This ultra-rapid cooling prevents ice crystals from forming within the embryo, which could damage its structure.

The frozen embryos are then stored until they are ready to be thawed and transferred back into the woman's uterus during her IVF procedure. The success rates of frozen embryo transfer are comparable to fresh embryo transfer, making it a viable option for couples undergoing fertility treatment.

Why freeze embryos?

A fertility specialist could recommend embryo freezing as it offers several benefits for individuals and couples facing fertility challenges:

  1. Flexibility: Freezing embryos allows you to preserve your fertility potential, providing more time and options when planning for a family. It gives you the freedom to focus on personal or professional goals without worrying about declining fertility as you age.
  2. Higher success rates: Frozen embryo transfer often yields higher success rates compared to fresh embryo transfer. This is because the woman's body has time to recover from the hormonal stimulation required during her IVF procedure, creating a more favourable environment for embryo implantation.
  3. Multiple attempts: By freezing embryos, individuals can undergo multiple cycles of IVF procedure without going through the entire stimulation and egg retrieval process each time. This increases the chances of achieving a successful pregnancy.
  4. Genetic testing: Embryo freezing allows for preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), which involves screening embryos for genetic abnormalities before transfer. This screening can help identify healthy embryos with the greatest potential for successful implantation and pregnancy.

What to expect during the process?

Embryo freezing is typically done as part of an IVF procedure, which involves multiple steps over several weeks or months. These steps include:

  1. Ovarian stimulation: You'll undergo hormone injections to stimulate your ovaries and promote the development of multiple eggs.
  2. Egg retrieval: Once your eggs are mature, they will be retrieved during a minor surgical procedure performed under sedation or anaesthesia.
  3. Fertilisation: The retrieved eggs will be fertilised with sperm in a laboratory setting.
  4. Embryo monitoring: The resulting embryos will be monitored for quality and development over several days.
  5. Freezing: Quality embryos that are not transferred immediately will be frozen using vitrification.
  6. Storage: The frozen embryos will be stored in a cryopreservation facility until you're ready for transfer.
  7. Thawing and transfer: When you're ready, the frozen embryos will be thawed and transferred back into your uterus during an IVF procedure.

Embryo freezing is a remarkable advancement in reproductive medicine. If you're considering this option or have further questions, reach out to an Apollo Fertility centre near you. It is India's leading chain of clinics offering comprehensive fertility tests and treatments. Our experienced team of fertility specialists will guide you through every step of your journey towards building a family.

How long can embryos be frozen?

Embryos can be safely stored for many years. However, it's important to check the specific guidelines and regulations of the fertility clinic where your embryos are stored.

Are there any risks or side effects of embryo freezing?

The process of embryo freezing is generally safe and does not pose significant risks or side effects. However, it's important to discuss any concerns with your fertility specialist.

What happens if I have more embryos than I need?

If you have more embryos than you need or decide not to use them in the future, you could donate them to other couples, donate them for research purposes, or have them discarded according to your preferences and local regulations.

Book an Appointment




Ovulation Calculator