Embryo Freezing

Embryos can be frozen after they are created in vitro so that they can be preserved and possibly used for IVF at a later date. The procedure works in the same way as IVF treatment, except that the embryos will be frozen and stored instead of being used right away. You will still need to go through the same egg and sperm collection processes so that the embryos can be created in vitro. When you are ready to use the frozen embryos, they can be transferred into the womb using the same IVF techniques.

Who Should Consider Embryo Freezing?

The most common reason for freezing embryos is that there are extra embryos left over after a cycle of IVF has been completed. If the cycle is not successful then the frozen embryos can be used in the next attempt. If the IVF is successful, then the embryos can be kept in case you decide to try for another baby in the future. Keeping the frozen embryos can increase the chances of success as there will be no need to collect more eggs. It can make further cycles of IVF treatment faster and easier.

You might also want to consider embryo freezing if you want to have the option of IVF in the future, for example, if you are having cancer treatment that could affect your fertility. Embryo freezing can be a better choice than freezing eggs or sperm in some cases. For example, freezing embryos can give you a better chance of succeeding with IVF in the future than freezing eggs. However, you will need a partner or donor to create the embryos, which could have significant implications for their use. We can help you to decide which of these is the best option for you.

Some of the factors you might want to consider before freezing embryos are:

  • Whether you will use donor eggs or sperm to create the embryos or create them with your partner
  • What will happen if your relationship ends after creating frozen embryos together (including the legal implications for using the embryos in the future)
  • How long you want to store the embryos for and when you might want to use them
  • What will happen to any frozen embryos that you don’t use, including whether you might consider donating them for research or to someone who can’t produce their own embryos for IVF

If you are undergoing fertility treatment overseas it is vital to understand your legal rights over the embryos that are created. You will also need to check the policies of the fertility clinic as there can be differences in how long embryos can be frozen for.

What Does Embryo Freezing Involve?

Embryos can be frozen after they have been created by in vitro fertilisation (IVF). In order to produce the embryo, it will be necessary to collect eggs and sperm from you, your partner or a donor. The eggs and sperm will be brought together in vitro (outside the body) so that fertilisation happens. The embryos will be allowed to grow for a while until they reach a suitable size for freezing or IVF. If you are ready for a cycle of IVF right away, then one or more of the embryos can be transferred into the womb. Any good quality embryos that aren’t going to be transferred can be frozen using a special process that prevents the cells from getting damaged.

Once the embryos have been frozen, they can be stored for as long as you like or until you need them for IVF, donate them for scientific research, or donate them to someone else who wants to have children. It’s important to realise that embryos won’t always survive the thawing process. However, for those that do, the success rates for IVF treatment are similar for both frozen and newly created embryos.

The procedure for using the frozen embryos is the same as for IVF using newly created embryos. Medication will be used to regulate the menstrual period. When the womb lining is ready, an embryo will be prepared and transferred into it.

How Long Can My Embryos Be Stored For?

Frozen embryos will usually be stored for up to 10 years in the UK, but the regulations can vary between different countries. Each clinic can also have its own regulations on embryo freezing, so it is important to check how long you can freeze your embryos for before you begin the process. You will also need to consider the cost of storing your embryos, which will be different for each clinic.

After you have had your embryos frozen it will be essential to continue the payments and to ensure that the clinic always has your current contact details. The clinic may need to get in touch if there are any changes or at the end of the agreed storage term. If they can’t reach you, then the embryos may be disposed of at the end of the term.

Since embryos can be stored for many years before they are used it is essential to discuss the possible consequences and legal implications with the clinic and your partner (if applicable) at the start of the process. You will need to sign consent forms confirming that you understand the regulations, which may cover:

  • How long the embryos will be stored for
  • What you want to happen to the embryos if you or your partner are no longer able to make decisions about them due to death or incapacitation
  • What happens if one partner wants to withdraw consent to use the embryos, which usually means that the other party won’t be able to use them
  • If you are willing to donate any embryos to other people or for research
  • Any other conditions relating to the use or storage of the frozen embryos

How We Can Help

If you’re having IVF treatment then it’s important to think about what you will do with any remaining embryos. You might also want to consider embryo freezing for other reasons. Our fertility specialists can help you to understand the options and make the right choices. We can also ensure that your embryos are stored safely and that you get the support you need to make decisions about them in the future. We can arrange for your frozen embryos to be used if you are ready to have IVF abroad or in the UK.

Get in touch to talk to one of our fertility specialists about embryo freezing. We can provide personalised advice and arrange for your unused embryos to be stored securely.

Embryo Freezing FAQs

Embryos are frozen using a special technique that minimises any damage to the cells. Embryos may be frozen at any stage from a single cell up to an 8 cell blastocyst. Only high quality embryos will be selected for freezing in order to ensure the best results. The embryos are placed in a special solution that contains cryoprotectants that will prevent ice crystals from forming inside the cells and damaging them. The embryos can then either be cooled down slowly or frozen quickly. The frozen embryos will be stored inside tanks filled with liquid nitrogen until they are ready to be used.

Embryo freezing enables embryos that are created now to be stored for use in the future. Freezing is the only way to preserve unused embryos for future rounds of IVF. It can also be a good option if you are about to undergo treatment that could affect your fertility as it will ensure that you have the option of IVF in the future if you need it. Having the frozen embryos available will give you more control over your fertility.

The success rate for IVF is similar for both frozen and newly created embryos once they have been transferred into the womb. However, there is a chance that the embryos won’t survive the freezing process. If the embryos are damaged then it won’t be possible to use them for IVF.

Since age is one of the most important factors for IVF treatment, the success rate can actually be a bit higher for older women who are using frozen embryos than it would be if they were using newly created embryos. This is because the eggs used to create the frozen embryos were often collected years earlier, when there were plenty of high quality eggs available for use. However, for women under 35 the success rates are usually slightly higher for recently created embryos than for ones that have been frozen. This is because there is a slight risk of damage to the embryos during the freezing and thawing processes.

Some embryos can be damaged when they are frozen or during the thawing process before they are used. It is common for the embryos to lose a cell or two, but this won’t usually prevent them from developing normally after the transfer. However, some embryos may not survive the process and it is possible that all of the embryos will be lost. In most cases, if a good number of embryos are produced, there should be some that are suitable for use in IVF. The fertility clinic will ensure that the best quality embryos are selected for transfer.

Embryos aren’t affected by the length of time they remain frozen for, so the chances of success with IVF will be the same whether they are used after 1 year or 10 years. However, there may be other factors that affect the IVF process, such as your age or health when the embryo is transferred which could affect the chances of it implanting successfully. The clinic that is storing the embryos may also have regulations in place limiting how long the embryos can be stored for, so it is important to think carefully about when you want to use them. You will also need to consider the costs of storing the embryos for a long time.

Using frozen embryos for IVF is just as safe as using embryos that have just been produced. However, there are some additional issues to consider when you are freezing your embryos. If you are creating the embryos with a partner rather than a donor, you might not be able to use them in the future if your partner changes their mind. There may also be limits on how long you can store the embryos for and there is a chance that the embryos won’t all survive the freezing and thawing processes.

Embryo freezing is a relatively common procedure, especially for couples who have unused embryos after IVF treatment. Approximately 1 in 3 cycles of IVF are now performed using embryos that have been frozen.

The cost of embryo freezing will depend on where you have the procedure done and how long you decide to store the embryos for. You will need to cover the costs of the initial embryo creation process. A yearly fee will then be charged for storing the embryos. In the UK, this will usually be between about £170 and £400 a year. The charges can be lower if you go overseas for treatment. When you are ready to use the embryos, you will also need to pay for the embryo transfer procedure.

If you decide not to freeze your embryos or if the process doesn’t result in a successful pregnancy for you then you may want to consider using an egg or sperm donor to have a baby.

If you have unused embryos after IVF or you no longer need your frozen embryos then you can choose whether you want them to be disposed of or donated to other couples or for research. Donated embryos are also needed to help train embryologists to perform fertility treatments.

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