It is common for fertility treatments, such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) to have healthy embryos left over. Rather than discarding them, at Wessex Fertility we offer everyone the chance to freeze their embryos for use in the future or to donate to other people struggling to conceive naturally.
If you would like to find out more about frozen embryo transfer, read on.
One of the many benefits of the frozen embryo process is that there is no need to go through the IVF cycle again because you already have the embryos. Our embryologists will carefully thaw your ready embryos and thoroughly assess their suitability for transfer. If the embryo is suitable, it will be transferred into the womb in the hopes of a successful pregnancy.
Below we will explain the frozen embryos transfer timeline for you so that you fully understand what is involved in the process.
The first step in the frozen embryo transfer process is for you to come in to our clinic for a scan and consultation. During this consultation, one of our fertility doctors will assess you and discuss a treatment plan personalised to your needs for the best chance of success. During this consultation, you can also ask for any frozen embryo transfer tips or suggestions for success we may have.
The treatment consultation is exactly 2 weeks before the start of your period. You will come in to meet one of our fertility nurses who will talk through the entire frozen embryo process with you, make sure you understand and are happy with everything, and go through the consent forms with you.
You will have two to three blood tests and scans that take around 20 minutes each. These scans and blood tests are usually spaced a couple of days apart.
The embryo transfer is a quick and easy process that is painless, feeling much like a smear test. The doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina to help keep the vaginal walls open while the catheter is passed through the cervix and into the womb.
The embryos are then passed through the tube into the woman’s womb in the hopes of a successful pregnancy. The embryo transfer process is short and usually pain free. However, sedatives are available for women particularly anxious or susceptible to pain.
Around two weeks after the frozen embryo transfer, we will invite you back into the clinic for a blood test to decipher whether or not you are pregnant. The blood test will detect hCG levels by measuring the presence of the hCG hormone, otherwise known as ‘the pregnancy hormone’. This will indicate whether or not you are pregnant.
The two week wait can be a stressful time, but we recommend you try to keep calm and avoid home pregnancy tests if possible. Home pregnancy tests can give inaccurate results (due to the high level of hormones you may be taking to encourage successful conception).
Depending on the result, we will proceed in one of two ways: if you are pregnant, we will arrange an ultrasound scan 3 weeks later to confirm the pregnancy and the number of babies present.
If, however, your pregnancy test is negative, you may want some time to process the news before coming to speak to us. Once you are ready to speak to us, we can arrange an appointment where we can assess what happened, your next steps, and whether you would like counselling support during this time. Whether the result is positive or negative, at Wessex Fertility, we are here for you every step of the way.
The success rates for frozen embryo transfers we carry out continue to improve year on year. In fact, they are now comparable to the success rates for those treatments using fresh embryo transfers.
You may be wondering what the chances of successful frozen embryo transfers are and whether transferring fresh or frozen embryos is better. According to the International Journal of Reproductive Medicine, there is no difference in success rates when using fresh or frozen embryos. As with many areas of fertility treatment, individual success rates can vary depending on the cause of infertility, any genetic disorders, ethnic backgrounds, and so on.
Not all embryos are suitable for freezing, as some embryos may not develop properly. However, healthy embryos can be frozen for use at a later date. All embryos can be frozen at different stages of development. However, whatever stage of development they are in, the process is the same.
The embryos are first placed into a solution containing cryoprotectants. These help provide protection in the cells and draw water out of the embryo. This helps process helps protect your embryos from damaging ice crystals forming on their surface.
The embryos are then frozen in one of two ways; either they are frozen slowly or they are frozen very rapidly in a process called vitrification. The frozen embryos are then stored in liquid nitrogen tanks until you are ready to use them.
Technological advancements means that the standard storage period for frozen embryos is 10 years. However, there are some women who can store their embryos for up to 55 years, although this will depend on personal circumstances.
Although we do everything we can to protect your embryos during the freezing, thawing, and transfer processes, sadly not all embryos will survive. However, in the vast majority of cases, the embryos will freeze, thaw, and continue healthy development without any problems. At Wessex Fertility, we will talk to you about each and every one of your embryos and which are suitable to be transferred.
Before your embryos are frozen, every aspect of the process will be fully explained to you. It is essential that you sign our consent forms before we freeze your embryos. These will explain the following relevant information:
Embryos can be frozen to preserve fertility, so that individuals and couples can have a baby at a later date. You can find out more about fertility preservation here. However, embryo freezing also allows individuals or couples to donate their healthy embryos to other couples who may be struggling to conceive without fertility treatment. We ensure you fully understand every possible outcome before signing our consent forms.
You may be wondering if embryo freezing is the best option for you. We suggest that you may want to consider embryo freezing if you or your partner are facing any of the following complications:
We provide frozen embryo transfer carried out by our fertility experts. We do everything we can to support you through your fertility treatment journey, providing care and support along the way. If you would like to find out more about frozen embryo transfers, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us today. We would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.