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Embryo Freezing

What is Embryo Freezing?

Embryo freezing, also known as embryo cryopreservation, is a process that involves preserving embryos by cooling them to sub-zero temperatures. This technique is widely used in fertility treatments, particularly in vitro fertilization (IVF), to store embryos for future use. Embryos are typically frozen at the blastocyst stage, around five to six days after fertilization when they are most viable. By freezing embryos, couples and individuals can plan their pregnancies according to their personal and medical needs, providing flexibility and peace of mind.

Embryo Freezing

Benefits of Embryo Freezing

Embryo freezing offers numerous advantages, making it a preferred choice for many undergoing fertility treatments:

  • Flexibility in family planning: Embryo freezing allows individuals and couples to delay pregnancy until the time is right for them, whether for personal, professional, or health reasons.
  • Increased success rates: Studies have shown that frozen embryo transfers often result in higher pregnancy rates compared to fresh transfers, as the woman’s body has more time to recover from ovarian stimulation.
  • Fertility preservation: For patients undergoing medical treatments such as chemotherapy, which can affect fertility, freezing embryos ensures they have the option to conceive in the future.
  • Reduced stress: Knowing that viable embryos are safely stored can reduce the emotional and psychological stress associated with the fertility treatment process.
  • Cost-effective: In some cases, using frozen embryos can be more cost-effective than undergoing multiple fresh IVF cycles.

How Embryo Freezing is performed?

1. Initial Consultation and Assessment

  • Medical evaluation: The process begins with a thorough consultation with a fertility specialist. During this initial visit, the patient’s medical history, reproductive health, and any underlying conditions are assessed. Blood tests and ultrasound examinations are conducted to evaluate ovarian reserve and overall reproductive health.
  • Personalized treatment plan: Based on the assessment, a personalized treatment plan is developed. This plan outlines the schedule for ovarian stimulation, monitoring, egg retrieval, and embryo freezing.

2. Ovarian Stimulation

  • Hormonal medications: The patient is prescribed hormonal medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Common medications include gonadotropins, which are injected daily for about 10-14 days. Medications may also include GnRH agonists or antagonists to prevent premature ovulation.
  • Monitoring: Throughout the stimulation phase, regular monitoring is conducted using blood tests and transvaginal ultrasounds. These tests measure hormone levels and track the growth and development of ovarian follicles.

3. Egg Retrieval (Oocyte Retrieval)

  • Preparation: Once the follicles have reached the appropriate size, a trigger injection (usually hCG or a GnRH agonist) is administered to induce final maturation of the eggs. Egg retrieval is scheduled approximately 34-36 hours after the trigger injection.
  • Procedure: Egg retrieval is performed under sedation or light anesthesia to ensure comfort. A thin needle is inserted through the vaginal wall and into each ovarian follicle, guided by ultrasound. The fluid within each follicle is aspirated, and the eggs are collected.

4. Fertilization

  • Sperm collection: On the day of egg retrieval, a semen sample is collected from the partner or a sperm donor. The sample is processed in the laboratory to isolate the highest quality sperm.
  • Insemination: The collected eggs are inseminated with sperm in the laboratory. This can be done using conventional IVF, where eggs and sperm are combined in a petri dish, or via intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.
  • Embryo culture: Fertilized eggs (embryos) are cultured in a specialized incubator. They are monitored for several days (usually 3-5 days) to assess their development and quality.

5. Embryo Freezing (Vitrification)

  • Selection of viable embryos: Embryologists evaluate the developing embryos and select the most viable ones for freezing. Criteria include the rate of cell division and overall morphology.
  • Vitrification process: Selected embryos are subjected to vitrification, a rapid freezing technique that prevents the formation of ice crystals. The embryos are first treated with cryoprotectant solutions to dehydrate them and protect cellular structures during freezing.
  • Rapid cooling: After cryoprotectant treatment, embryos are placed in small, specially designed containers (cryotop or cryolock) and then plunged into liquid nitrogen, where they are stored at temperatures around -196°C.

6. Storage

  • Long-term preservation: Frozen embryos are stored in secure cryogenic storage tanks filled with liquid nitrogen. These tanks are equipped with monitoring systems to ensure stable storage conditions. Embryos can be stored indefinitely, allowing patients to plan for future pregnancies at their convenience.

7. Future Use

  • Thawing: When the patient is ready to use the frozen embryos, they are carefully thawed. The thawing process involves gradually warming the embryos and removing the cryoprotectant solutions.
  • Embryo transfer: The thawed embryos are then transferred to the patient’s uterus in a procedure similar to a standard embryo transfer in IVF. This can be done during a natural menstrual cycle or a hormone-controlled cycle.

8. Follow-up and Monitoring

  • Post-transfer care: After the embryo transfer, patients receive hormonal support, typically in the form of progesterone, to prepare the uterine lining for implantation. Follow-up appointments and ultrasounds are scheduled to monitor the success of the implantation and the early stages of pregnancy.

By understanding each step of the embryo freezing, patients can approach their treatment with confidence, knowing that they are in capable hands at Shukan Hospital & IVF Centre.

Risks of Embryo Freezing

While embryo freezing is generally safe and effective, there are some potential risks and considerations:

  • Survival rate: Although advanced techniques like vitrification have significantly improved the survival rate of thawed embryos, not all embryos may survive the freezing and thawing process.
  • Multiple pregnancies: If multiple embryos are transferred after thawing, there is a higher risk of multiple pregnancies, which can lead to complications for both the mother and the babies.
  • Emotional impact: The process can be emotionally taxing, especially if the outcome is not as expected.

At Shukan Hospital, we minimize these risks through meticulous planning, advanced technology, and comprehensive pre-operative and post-operative care.

Why choose Shukan Hospital & IVF Centre in Ahmedabad for Embryo Freezing?

  • We have inhouse team, experience embryologists and andrologists full time.
  • Our team of experienced fertility specialists and embryologists provide personalized and compassionate care, ensuring the best outcomes for egg freezing.
  • We use the latest technology and advanced vitrification techniques to maximize egg survival and viability.
  • From your first consultation to post-procedure follow-ups, we offer tailored and comprehensive care to meet your specific needs.
  • We prioritize your comfort and convenience, providing a supportive environment and clear communication throughout your fertility journey.

FAqs

How long can embryos be stored?
Embryos can be stored indefinitely in liquid nitrogen. There have been successful pregnancies from embryos that were frozen for over 20 years.
What is the success rate of frozen embryo transfers?
The success rate of frozen embryo transfers is generally high, with many studies showing similar or even better outcomes compared to fresh embryo transfers.
Is there an ideal age to consider embryo freezing?
The ideal age for embryo freezing is generally in a woman’s late 20s to early 30s. At this age, the quality and quantity of eggs tend to be optimal. However, embryo freezing can be considered at any age, depending on individual reproductive health and circumstances.
Is the embryo freezing process painful?
The egg retrieval process may cause some discomfort, but it is performed under sedation to minimize pain. The actual freezing process does not cause any pain to the patient.
Can I freeze embryos if I am undergoing cancer treatment?
Yes, freezing embryos before starting cancer treatment is a common practice for preserving fertility. It is important to discuss this option with your oncologist and fertility specialist.
What happens if the embryos do not survive the thawing process?
While vitrification has significantly improved survival rates, there is still a small risk that some embryos may not survive the thawing process. Your fertility specialist will discuss alternative options if this occurs.
How much does embryo freezing cost?
The cost of embryo freezing varies based on the clinic and the treatment plan. It typically includes ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, embryo culture, laboratory processing, freezing, and storage fees.
Can I choose to freeze my embryos at any stage of development?
Yes, embryos can be frozen at different stages of development, such as the cleavage stage (early embryo up to 6 days old) or blastocyst stage (day 5-6 of development). The choice depends on the quality of the embryos and the advice of your fertility specialist.
Is there a limit to how many embryos I can freeze?
There is no strict limit on the number of embryos you can freeze. However, considerations such as ethical, legal, and medical guidelines can impact the decision.
Can I use my frozen eggs if I move to another city or country?
Yes, frozen eggs can be transported to another fertility clinic if you relocate. It is important to coordinate with both the current and receiving clinics to ensure the safe transfer of your eggs.
Will egg freezing affect my ovarian reserve or future fertility?
Egg freezing does not significantly affect your ovarian reserve or future fertility. The process retrieves eggs that would naturally be lost in that cycle.
Can I still undergo other fertility treatments after embryo freezing?
Yes, after embryo freezing, you can still pursue other fertility treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI), natural cycle IVF, or other assisted reproductive techniques if you wish.