Embryo freezing is a method of preserving the embryos at a very low temperature. In IVF (In vitro fertilization), this method is used to select the best embryo for transfer and preserved for further assessment and treatment procedure. These viable and frozen embryos can later be transferred in the woman’s uterus for pregnancy. In the IVF treatment, the extracted eggs and sperm are manually combined in a laboratory and then transferred to the uterus.does
This method is very helpful when fertilization within the womb isn’t possible, for example, there are ovulation disorders in women, less sperm count or motility in men, blocked fallopian tube or some other type of unexplained or untreatable condition that restricts fertilization or conception.
How does embryo freezing work and why is it helpful?
Embryo freezing is very helpful as healthy embryos can be used for future use or donation, usually a woman’s ovaries are stimulated to produce eggs (ova) using medication, then these eggs are extracted and fertilized in the lab. If the external fertilization of the egg and the sperm is successful, these embryos can be implanted in the woman’s uterus or can be frozen for future use. Two types of methods are used for embryo freezing; slow freezing and Vitrification.
In slow freezing method, the embryos are kept in sealed tubes the temperature is lowered slowly to freeze them, this method prevents damage to the embryos and stops the aging process of the embryo. In vitrification, the embryos are cryoprotected, meaning the water inside the embryo is replaced with this substance known as cryoprotectant. The embryos in this process are frozen quickly, this helps protect embryos and store them for a longer time. Frozen embryos are store in liquid nitrogen for future use.
Vitrification is known to be more successful in helping inducing pregnancy, embryos can be stored at any stage, from single cell to a blastocyst stage. Many women choose to freeze their eggs more often than not, many women in their 30s not yet ready to have children decide to freeze their eggs and it works for them. In IVF removing eggs from the ovaries require a minor surgery, the sperm and egg are then combined, in the process known as insemination.
Once the egg is fertilized it’s considered an embryo, the embryo can be transferred to a woman’s uterus within few days or it can be frozen for future use. The embryos are transferred in the uterus using a catheter, it is a painless procedure on the whole, later implantation of the embryo occurs in the uterus leading to pregnancy.
Who can make use of embryo freezing and why it’s done
The frozen embryos are held at very low temperature at around -321 Fahrenheit, these embryos can be stored for many years, and can be used for donation or whenever it’s viable to implant the embryo to the uterus. Long-term effects of embryo freezing aren’t known, the technique started back in the 1980’s, a woman can use her own embryos whenever she wants or keep them stored for many years, as long as up to 10 years.
As mentioned earlier, embryo freezing though expensive, it works if immediate implantation of the embryo into the uterus isn’t possible. Though no statistical difference has been shown in recent studies on the use of fresh or frozen embryos, a study also showed that a frozen embryo resulted in higher rates of pregnancy, so it might be beneficial to freeze embryos in some cases. Any woman going through IVF can use frozen embryo technique, women undergoing treatment and medication may consider freezing embryos for later use.
More than one embryo can be implanted in the uterus at a time, but it may lead to multiple pregnancies, risk and rates of miscarriage are the same as unassisted pregnancies. The risk of ectopic pregnancy increases in IVF, the success of IVF depends on many factors, such a maternal health and age, lifestyle factors, and other factors.
Couples who don’t want to have children straight away can also use this technique of freezing embryos for future use. When eggs are extracted from a woman’s body certain side effects could be experienced, such as cramping and bloating, bleeding, vaginal discharge or infection. A greater number of eggs can be extracted to create many embryos, and more than one embryo can be implanted at a time as mentioned above. If any symptoms are experienced due to IVF or egg extraction, those should be mentioned to the doctor straight away.