Considering your future family plans and fertility concerns, you might be contemplating ways to secure your fertility options. Among the most well-known methods are egg freezing (oocyte cryopreservation) and embryo freezing. Both aim to preserve your fertility, but they differ in processes, success rates, and costs. Delve into this comprehensive guide to embryo freezing, uncovering… Continue reading Explore Your Best Fertility Preservation Choice: Egg Freezing or Embryo Freezing?
Common Egg Freezing Side Effects and How to Manage Them

Considering your future family plans and fertility concerns, you might be contemplating ways to secure your fertility options. Among the most well-known methods are egg freezing (oocyte cryopreservation) and embryo freezing. Both aim to preserve your fertility, but they differ in processes, success rates, and costs. Delve into this comprehensive guide to embryo freezing, uncovering its nuances, success rates, and factors influencing its effectiveness. Gain clarity on how embryo freezing stands apart from egg freezing, along with their respective pros and cons. Equipped with these insights, you’ll make an informed decision about the right fertility preservation path for your unique situation.

Understanding Embryo Freezing

Embryo freezing, also termed embryo cryopreservation, is an advanced assisted reproductive technology (ART). This method involves preserving embryos at ultra-low temperatures for future use. The process starts by stimulating a woman’s ovaries to produce multiple eggs, which are then fertilised in a laboratory using sperm. The resulting embryos are frozen and stored, ready for implantation in the uterus later on.

Benefits of Embryo Freezing

Embryo freezing offers distinct advantages over egg freezing. As embryos have already undergone fertilisation, they possess higher resilience during freezing and thawing. Plus, they have a better potential for implantation due to their advanced cell divisions. Research suggests a live birth rate of over 50% per embryo transfer for frozen embryos, compared to approximately 30-35% for frozen eggs.

The embryo freezing process typically takes around 2 to 6 weeks. It begins with administering fertility drugs to stimulate egg production, followed by a minor surgical procedure to retrieve mature eggs. These eggs are then fertilised in a lab, resulting in embryos with 6 to 8 cells. Subsequently, the embryos are preserved through vitrification, a flash-freezing method using liquid nitrogen. These embryos can remain frozen for several years until you decide to initiate a pregnancy.

When ready for pregnancy, the embryos are thawed and transferred to the uterus. Any extra embryos can be frozen for future use. Globally, embryo freezing has enabled the birth of more than 5 million babies, offering the freedom to delay parenthood until the timing suits you best.

Egg Freezing vs. Embryo Freezing: A Comparative Analysis

Egg Freezing

Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, entails extracting and freezing a woman’s eggs (oocytes) for potential future use. The eggs are retrieved during an egg retrieval procedure and preserved until desired. When prepared for pregnancy, the eggs are thawed and combined with sperm in a lab during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle.

Pros: Egg freezing empowers you to safeguard fertility, enabling biological children when the time is right. It enhances women’s reproductive autonomy and timing control for motherhood. Additionally, egg freezing can reduce genetic disorder risks by preserving eggs at a younger age.

Cons: Egg freezing can be costly, ranging from £5,000 to £20,000 per cycle. It doesn’t guarantee future pregnancies, as egg quality and quantity diminish with age, reducing the odds of success. A slight risk of egg damage or failure during freezing and thawing is also present.

Embryo Freezing

Embryo freezing involves fertilizing eggs with sperm to form embryos, followed by freezing and storing them for later use. The embryos can be transferred to the uterus during an IVF cycle when a woman is ready to get pregnant. This method is often chosen when couples have extra embryos after IVF cycles.

Pros: Embryo freezing enjoys higher success rates with up to 65% than egg freezing alone. Embryos that survive freezing and thawing stand a better chance of resulting in live births. It’s often more cost-effective than multiple egg freezing cycles.

Cons: A male partner or donor sperm is needed for embryo creation. Ethical questions emerge concerning frozen embryos, including storage and disposal.

In summary, while both egg and embryo freezing excel as fertility preservation strategies, they diverge significantly in terms of cost, success rates, risks, and ethical implications. Your choice depends on individual circumstances and preferences. Extensive consultations with a reproductive endocrinologist are essential to selecting the right method for your unique situation.

Embryo Freezing Success Rates: Revelations from Research

Success Rates of Embryo Freezing

Research has demonstrated embryo freezing, or cryopreservation, as a successful technique since the 1980s, boasting remarkable pregnancy success rates. Recent studies reveal live birth rates per frozen embryo transfer spanning 25-35% for women under 35 and 15-25% for women aged 35-39.

  • A 2016 study analysing 15,000+ frozen embryo transfers unveiled an overall 25.9% live birth rate of 25.9% per transfer across all ages. For women under 35, this rate escalated to 32.8% per transfer. 
  • A comprehensive 2010-2019 study review noted a cumulative 36.5% live birth rate for women under 35 after up to three frozen embryo transfers. 
  • Older women and those with infertility issues may experience slightly reduced pregnancy rates, but for women up to age 44, the chance of success in frozen embryo transfers remains encouraging.

Today’s advanced freezing methods, like vitrification, contribute to maintaining embryo viability over prolonged storage periods. Recent research underlines the comparability in success rates between frozen embryos stored for up to five years and fresh embryos. Certain studies even suggest steady birth rates for embryos preserved for up to 15 years. Nevertheless, extensive research is still needed to solidify success rates beyond 5-10 years of storage.

In conclusion, embracing embryo freezing as an established fertility preservation method that yields high success rates, particularly among younger women. Factors influencing success span age, infertility diagnosis, embryo quality, and more. 

Who Should Consider Embryo Freezing?

Couples Struggling with Infertility

For couples who have been trying to conceive for 6-12 months without success, embryo freezing emerges as an option for fertility preservation. By freezing embryos from the female’s eggs and the partner’s sperm, in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts can be tailored to optimal timing. The embryos can be thawed and transferred to the uterus, with the hope that one or more will implant and develop into a healthy pregnancy. 

Women with Medical Conditions

For women diagnosed with cancer or other medical conditions requiring treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery that could impact fertility, embryo freezing provides the opportunity to have biological children in the future. By extracting eggs, fertilizing them with sperm, and freezing the resulting embryos before treatment begins, you are able to preserve your fertility and options for the future. 

Career and Parenthood Balance

Women prioritising careers, education, or personal aspirations can consider embryo freezing. This strategy lets you create and store embryos during peak fertility, preserving options to embrace motherhood when the time is right. Success rates soar when eggs are retrieved early.

Same-Sex Couples and Single Women

Embryo freezing extends its arms to non-traditional family structures. It aids same-sex couples, single women embracing parenthood by choice, and others seeking biological offspring without a male partner. Donor sperm breathes life into embryos, ready for eventual pregnancy and motherhood.

In summary, embryo freezing is ideal for women and couples navigating diverse scenarios. By preserving embryos during peak fertility, the chance of nurturing a healthy pregnancy skyrockets. Innovations continue to amplify success rates, creating possibilities to shape or expand your family when the time is right.

Embryo Freezing: A Step-by-Step Process 

Embryo freezing, scientifically known as embryo cryopreservation, unfolds through several stages:

Collection and Freezing

The first step in embryo freezing involves retrieving eggs from the ovaries, either via hormone injections or natural cycle IVF, which yields a single egg. Eggs then mix with sperm in a laboratory, spawning embryos. The chosen, high-quality embryos were then frozen and stored for future use.

Examination and Evaluation

Embryos undergo scrutiny based on their appearance and developmental stage. The healthiest embryos with the highest chance of implantation after thawing are selected for freezing. Typically, 2 to 8 embryos are preserved per cycle, with extra embryos available for subsequent IVF endeavors. 

The Freezing Process 

A protective cryoprotectant solution protects embryos during freezing. This journey embraces gradual cooling in a programmable freezer, which brings embryos to -196°C through vitrification. This ultra-cold state stops all biological activity. The frozen embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen tanks for use when you’re ready to get pregnant. 

Thawing and Transfer 

When the time is right, frozen embryos thaw, undergoing meticulous evaluation. Viable embryos are selected for transfer into the uterus via a catheter. Extra embryos remain frozen for future use. The chance of pregnancy from a frozen embryo transfer stands at 50% per cycle for women below 35.

How much Does Embryo Freezing Cost?

Initial Investment 

Embarking on embryo freezing typically incurs an initial cost ranging from £8,000 to £15,000. This all-encompassing amount covers the IVF cycle for egg retrieval, fertilisation, and embryo development until the blastocyst stage for freezing. Specific costs fluctuate based on clinic preferences, required medications, and the number of embryos to be preserved. Some clinics adopt an embryo-based pricing approach, pegging costs per frozen embryo, often within the £200 to £500 range each.

Storage Fees

Annual storage charges factor into the equation, varying between £200 to £500 annually for embryo preservation. Embryos may be stored indefinitely, with storage fees applicable as long as preservation continues. A few clinics offer discounted storage rates for upfront, multi-year payments.

Thawing and Transferring Embryos

The cost of thawing and transferring frozen embryos towards a prospective pregnancy is an additional expense. This outlay typically ranges from £3,000 to £5,000 for a frozen embryo transfer cycle. The final cost depends on supplementary medication needs and the number of embryos scheduled for transfer.

Potential for Further IVF Cycles

In scenarios where your initial IVF cycle falls short in generating sufficient high-quality embryos for freezing or frozen embryo transfers yield unsatisfactory results, extra full IVF cycles may be needed. These additional cycles can cost between £10,000 to £15,000 on average per single IVF cycle.

Refund Programs

Some fertility clinics offer refund programs, requiring an upfront fee covering multiple IVF cycles and unlimited frozen embryo transfers until a live birth is achieved. While the initial cost is higher, often spanning £20,000 to £30,000, these programs can prove cost-effective when multiple cycles and transfers are in demand.

In summary, you can expect to pay at least $10,000 to $15,000 upfront for embryo freezing and potentially $5,000 to $10,000 for each subsequent frozen embryo transfer. Storage fees and additional IVF cycles, if needed, add to the total cost. Refund programs offer a fixed cost, but at a higher upfront price. The exact amount depends on your unique situation and clinic fees.

Embryo Freezing: Answers to Common Questions

What Is Embryo Freezing?

Embryo freezing, or cryopreservation, is a fertility preservation technique involving the freezing of embryos for future use. The process entails fertilizing eggs with sperm in a lab, creating embryos that are then frozen and stored. When desired, the frozen embryos can be thawed and transferred to the uterus, potentially leading to pregnancy.

How Does Embryo Freezing Work? 

Embryo freezing comprises several steps:

Egg retrieval and fertilisation: Eggs are collected from the ovaries and combined with sperm to form embryos. 

Freezing the embryos: The embryos are exposed to a protective solution and gradually cooled using a controlled rate freezer. Vitrification is employed to freeze embryos at around -196°C, preserving them in liquid nitrogen.

Storage of frozen embryos: Embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen at ultra-low temperatures for future use. They can remain frozen for years without damage. 

Thawing and transfer: When ready for use, embryos are thawed and transferred into the uterus, aiming for a successful pregnancy. 

What’s the Difference Between Egg Freezing and Embryo Freezing? 

Egg freezing preserves unfertilised eggs, while embryo freezing involves fertilizing eggs with sperm before freezing. Embryo freezing generally boasts higher success rates due to enhanced embryo viability. However, egg freezing offers more control and flexibility over future use.

What Is the Success Rate of Embryo Freezing? 

Embryo freezing demonstrates strong success rates. Recent research suggests that live birth rates per transfer of frozen embryos range from 50-60% for women under 35. While success rates may slightly decrease with age, embryos stored for extended periods exhibit promising results.

Conclusion

As you think over your choices to safeguard your fertility, both egg freezing and embryo freezing provide practical paths to secure your future chances of having children. While egg freezing is a simpler process offering great adaptability, embryo freezing carries a higher likelihood of success. Your decision ultimately boils down to what matters most to you and your life plans. If you’re in a relationship and aiming for the best shot at success, embryo freezing is the way to go. For those safeguarding fertility with an unknown partner in mind, egg freezing grants more control and adaptability. By grasping the pros and cons of each method, you can pick the fertility preservation route that aligns with your needs and values. Though it’s no easy choice, rest assured you’re taking a significant stride toward realising your goal of becoming a parent at the most opportune time for you.

Share

Tags
Most Read Articles
zora-logo-w
Your Ultimate Guide to Egg Freezing

The most comprehensive 24-page guide – step-by-step process to cost breakdowns, risks, effectiveness, key considerations & all you need to know. Save your time & effort.

May we suggest