There are left over embryos from the first cycle of fertility treatment that one can keep safe for later treatment or donate to someone or for medical training and research. With the rising popularity of IVF treatment, the interest in keeping leftover embryos safe for future use or embryo freezing has grown tremendously over time.
Why freeze embryos?
Both in in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), often there is a leftover of good quality embryos that you can freeze and keep safe for future use. It can come handy in case the treatment did not work in the first cycle and having a sibling for your baby.
You may also want to freeze your embryos with your partner if you have a medical condition which requires you treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy that has impaired your fertility and may damage it in the future. However, you must be conscious of the fact that in future either of you can change your minds.
Embryos have a long shelf life; a baby was born after keeping he embryo foren for 13 years!
How embryos are frozen?
If you want to keep your embryos frozen, not all can be used for this purpose but only the very best ones. Embryos are frozen at different stages of their development, primarily when they are single cell; when they are two to eight cells, and at blasctocyst state in the later part of their development.
The embryos are kept in a special substance so that the water in the cells can be replaced by this substance that protects the embryos from ice crystals when they are frozen. They are frozen by cooling down and a process of fast freezing called vitrification Finally, they are put in tanks of liquid nitrogen until you want to use them.
However, you will be required to sing relevant documents and give you consent to keep your embryos frozen for future use. These documents set out the terms and conditions for keeping the embryos frozen such as:
The period for which the embryos are to be stored. What if one of you dies or is unable to take a decision as to what to do with the embryos. What is the purpose for which the embryos are being frozen – for your own use, for donating to someone or for medical research and training. Other conditions for the use of the embryos.
For how long?
Embryos can be stored for a long period, 10 year s being the standard period while in certain circumstances it can be stored up to 55 years. Your clinic can guide you further on this.
If you want to change your residence during the period for which the embryos are frozen, you should bring it to the notice of your clinic so that it can update your address. In case they are not able to contact you, they would not know what to do with your embryos.
How to use them?
Based on your clinic and your personal circumstances, the procedure to use the embryos can differ. The process usually begins with examining if ovulation is regular in you. If it is so the doctors won’t need to administer any fertility drugs. The doctors will use ultrasound scan to check the lining of your uterus. This will be followed by urine and blood test to know when exactly you are ovulating, which in turn will tell when the womb is ready to conceive and receive the embryos.
But if your ovulation is not regular and periods are either not regular or not coming at all, the doctors will have to give you fertility drug to trigger ovulation that will prepare the uterus the embryos and conceive with it. The embryo specialists or embryologist will determine the right time for the transfer of embryos to your womb and they will do their job. In exceptional circumstances, as many as three embryos can be transferred to the womb if the person is not over 40.