Embryo freezing or cryopreservation has been in existence since the 1980s. It is widely used today to help people preserve fertility and have a baby whenever they wish to—the process freezes and stores embryos or fertilized eggs for future use. A person can even store eggs that are not fertilized. The pregnancy rates from frozen embryos are similar to or even higher than those of fresh embryos. People can store embryos for various reasons, such as to get pregnant in the future, donate to others, or for medical research.
What is Embryo Freezing?
An embryo is formed when an egg is fertilized by a sperm. Embryo freezing is a process of storing frozen embryos of people for later use. It involves removing eggs from the ovaries, fertilizing them to grow into embryos, and then freezing them. When the time comes to use them, the frozen embryos are thawed and implanted either in the person who donated the embryos or in another person.
Who Should Opt for Embryo Freezing?
Embryo freezing is often done when people undergo fertility treatments to get pregnant. Procedures like in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) fertilize eggs with sperm and can result in the creation of multiple embryos. Patients may choose to freeze and store those extra embryos and use them later.
Embryo freezing is often resorted to by people undergoing medical treatment, such as cancer treatment, hormone therapy, gender affirmation surgery, or any medical intervention that might affect the patient’s fertility. It is, thus, performed to preserve their fertility in such circumstances.
Sometimes doctors recommend people freeze their embryos to save them from a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which worsens after pregnancy. An embryo freezing procedure is also performed to improve the chances of getting pregnant if certain hormone levels are too high during the IVF cycle.
Another reason people opt for embryo freezing is to donate those extra embryos to others trying to conceive or for medical research instead of destroying them.
How is Embryo Freezing Done?
You need to give your consent to freeze embryos. Then, the doctor would proceed with fertilizing one or more of your harvested eggs with the sperm to create an embryo. The embryo is allowed to grow for five to seven days. Embryo freezing can be done by two methods:
- Vitrification: A cryoprotective agent (CPA) is added to the embryos. CPA is a liquid that protects the cells from ice crystals. The embryos are placed in tanks containing liquid nitrogen at -321 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slow freezing: Less CPA is added to the embryos than in vitrification. The embryos are put in a machine that slowly cools them for around two hours. After this, the embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen tanks at -321 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most fertility professionals use the vitrification method for embryo freezing.
Interestingly, the embryos remain in the same biological age at which they were frozen even after many years of freezing.
What are the Benefits of Embryo Freezing?
Embryo freezing is a great option for people wanting to have a baby at a later stage in life. It is mainly suitable in the following cases:
- People getting older but still not wanting to get pregnant
- Gender transition from female to male
- People facing fertility issues
- Personal reasons like higher education or career can lead to a delay in pregnancy
- People pursuing hazardous jobs like military deployment
There can be several reasons why people have to delay pregnancy. This method gives such people a way to have a biological child.
What are the Risks Associated with Embryo Freezing?
Research suggests that frozen embryos reduce the likelihood of preterm birth, low birth weight, and perinatal mortality. There is no evidence to show that it poses any risks to pregnancies.
However, some risks associated with frozen embryos are:
- Embryos might get damaged during the freezing process.
- There is a possibility of not getting pregnant after embryos are thawed and implanted.
- If more than one embryo gets implanted, it can lead to multiple births.
How Effective is Embryo Freezing in Getting Pregnant?
The process of frozen embryo transfer in a woman’s uterus is often successful in getting her pregnant. The likelihood of pregnancy from embryo freezing depends on the woman's age when embryos are created and frozen. When the process is carried out for a woman aged 35 or younger, the chances of pregnancy are the highest. Moreover, it has been observed that over 95% of frozen embryos survive the thawing process.
Other factors affecting the success rate are both parents’ overall health, fertility issues, and any previous fertility treatments.
If you are considering embryo freezing, talk to a fertility specialist today at Apollo Fertility.
Embryo freezing is a way to preserve your fertility and have a baby in the future.
There is a 95% success rate of getting pregnant using frozen embryos. The likelihood of pregnancy depends on the age of the woman, any fertility issues or previous fertility treatments.
Embryo freezing is often recommended by doctors if you’re undergoing fertility procedures like IVF or ICSI and certain hormone levels are too high. It is also done before you start any medical treatment which might affect your fertility.
It is recommended to freeze embryos in your late 20s or early 30s for the highest chances of success. However, if you have a medical condition that can affect your fertility, you might have to opt for embryo freezing sooner.
There are no such risks to pregnancy. However, it can lead to multiple births if more than one embryo gets implanted.