What is embryo freezing?
Embryo freezing, also known as cryopreservation, is a method of fertility preservation where embryos are frozen for later use. During an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a laboratory. The resulting embryos are then frozen and stored for future use. The embryos can later be thawed and transferred to the uterus. Embryo freezing allows people to preserve embryos when the female partner produces many eggs during an IVF cycle or when there are extra embryos left over from an IVF cycle.
How does embryo freezing work?
The embryo freezing process involves several steps:
- Egg retrieval and fertilization. Eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a laboratory to create embryos.
- Freezing the embryos. The embryos are exposed to a cryoprotectant solution that protects the cells during freezing and then cooled to very low temperatures using a controlled rate freezer. The embryos are then transferred to liquid nitrogen for long term storage.
- Storing the frozen embryos. The frozen embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen at -196°C (-320.8°F) for later use. They can remain frozen for many years without damage.
- Thawing the embryos. When ready for use, the frozen embryos are slowly thawed and then transferred to the uterus using a catheter. The thawing process must be done carefully to maximize embryo survival.
What is the difference between egg freezing and embryo freezing?
Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, involves freezing unfertilized eggs for later use. With embryo freezing, eggs are fertilized first before being frozen. Embryo freezing tends to have higher success rates compared to egg freezing alone. Embryos are more resistant to damage during the freezing and thawing process. However, some people prefer to freeze eggs over embryos for ethical or religious reasons. Egg freezing also provides more flexibility and control over future use.
What is the success rate of embryo freezing?
The success rates of embryo freezing and IVF using frozen embryos are good and continue to improve with new technology. According to recent research, the live birth rate per transfer of frozen embryos is around 50-60% for women under 35. The rates are slightly lower for older women. The cumulative success rates over multiple transfers may be higher. Embryo freezing provides a viable option for preserving and achieving fertility for many people.
How Much Does Embryo Freezing Cost?
The initial cost for embryo freezing typically ranges from $8,000 to $15,000. This includes the IVF cycle to retrieve eggs, fertilize them, and develop the embryos to the blastocyst stage for freezing. The specific cost depends on factors like the clinic, medications needed, and the number of embryos frozen. Some clinics charge per embryo frozen, ranging from $200 to $500 each.
There are also annual storage fees for keeping your embryos frozen, usually between $200 to $500 per year. The embryos can remain frozen for many years, but storage fees apply as long as you keep them stored. Some clinics offer discounted storage fees if you pay multiple years in advance.
Thawing and Transferring Embryos
When you are ready to use your frozen embryos, thawing and transferring them to start a pregnancy is an additional cost. This typically ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 for a frozen embryo transfer cycle. The exact cost depends on factors like any additional medications needed and number of embryos transferred.
Additional IVF Cycles
If your initial IVF cycle does not produce enough high-quality embryos to freeze, or if the frozen embryo transfers are not successful, you may need to pay for additional full IVF cycles to produce more embryos. The cost for a single IVF cycle ranges from $10,000 to $30,000 on average.
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. If needed, storage fees and additional IVF cycles add to the total cost.
Anna Haotanto is the Founder of Zora Health and a passionate advocate for women’s empowerment. Anna’s personal experiences with egg-freezing, PCOS and the challenges of fertility have fueled her mission to provide high-quality information, financing, and support to help women and couples navigate their fertility journeys with confidence. She is also recognised for her achievements in finance, entrepreneurship, and women’s empowerment, and has been featured in various media outlets. You can also follow her on Linkedin or Instagram.
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