The embryo banking, or freezing process is where a patient or couple chooses to go through the first steps of the IVF process: preparation, ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, and fertilization with partner sperm or donor sperm but instead of transferring the embryos they are frozen and saved for later. Embryo banking is a very similar process to egg freezing except instead of freezing unfertilized eggs, we will create embryos in the lab and then freeze those. This also involves a 10-14 day cycle in which your ovaries are stimulated to grow mature eggs. The eggs are then removed through a very short out-patient procedure. The eggs are fertilized with predetermined sperm to create embryos, and frozen for your future use.
All couples who are looking to genetically test their embryos must freeze them first. Embryo freezing has heightened in popularity with increased use of genetic testing. The embryologist will take a biopsy of the embryo and send it to our genetic partner lab for testing, but we will only transfer healthy embryos. The first pregnancies born from embryo freezing occured in the 1980s. Embryo freezing for long-term fertility preservation, often referred to as ’embryo banking,’ has experienced a notable surge in usage in recent times
There have been numerous studies showing no health differences of babies born from fresh embryos or frozen embryos. In fact, some studies actually show pregnancy rates are higher from frozen embryos instead of fresh embryos.
What is the difference between egg and embryo freezing?
There are important considerations to take into account when deciding whether to choose embryo banking or egg freezing, mainly surrounding the use of sperm. Embryo freezing is only available to patients who have already selected their sperm source. Embryos can not be “unfertilized.” Embryos legally belong to two patients unless an egg or sperm donor is used.
If a couple undergoes embryo freezing they must agree to embryo disposition. Embryo disposition is similar to an advanced directive, which is used in the event of death, divorce, or embryo abandonment to determine what the lab should do with the embryos.
Because eggs are slightly more delicate than embryos, they are marginally more challenging to freeze and thaw. Embryo freezing is more of an established technique. However, with modern technology and techniques used at Mate clinics, the likelihood of egg and embryo survival are on par with each other.
Why do people freeze embryos and is it safe?
Embryo freezing for fertility preservation is used to increase the chance that future IVF, if needed, will be as successful as possible. Short term embryo freezing is often done to facilitate genetic embryo testing. This testing may optimize embryo transfer success rates in some patients. The embryos are kept frozen in storage until they are needed and if a patient needs to use the embryos for IVF then the embryo is thawed during a frozen embryo transfer.
Although there are still many studies that are being done, the majority of large studies show that embryo freezing has minor, not major risks. It is important to thoroughly read and understand your consent forms before starting treatment and discuss any questions you may have with your Mate team.
embryo banking process
the only difference between egg and embryo freezing exists in the lab. your embryologist will use sperm from your partner or a donor to fertilize your eggs. after 5-6 days, the mature embryos will be frozen and stored for later use. you may also want to biopsy and test these embryos for any chromosomal abnormalities. when you are ready to use these embryos they will be thawed and we will transfer one into your uterus (or into a surrogate) with hopes of achieving a pregnancy.
freezing and success rates
the process begins by using hormones and other medications to stimulate the ovaries and produce as many eggs as possible. a mate doctor will then retrieve your eggs, send them to the lab for fertilization and freeze the subsequent embryos. we freeze tissue using vitrification. in this process, eggs and embryos freeze so quickly that the water molecules do not have time to form ice crystals and damage the cells. we then put the tissue in liquid nitrogen. this protects the embryos and increases their rate of survival during thawing. babies born after cryopreservation from frozen embryos show no increase in developmental delays or abnormalities. in fact, theoretically, a correctly frozen embryo can remain viable for any length of time. there has been no statistical difference between the types of embryos, (fresh vs. frozen) in terms of pregnancy rates or fetal health.