What the egg? Is Embryo Freezing in your Future?
While freezing eggs seems to be the family planning option of the future, embryo freezing sounds even more futuristic. If you’ve never heard of it or don’t know much about it, it probably seems dubious, experimental and like something you might only see on a Netflix binge while braving another episode of Black Mirror.
You might be glad to find that embryo freezing is a little less sci-fi than it sounds and actually, embryo transfers have an even higher birth success rate than eggs. The procedure uses the familiar processes if IVF (which has been around since the late 70’s) and would likely make for a pretty uneventful Black Mirror episode. Still, you might feel that there is a bit of mystery about the procedure and whether or not it’s right for you. So let’s break this down together and see how there is only science and no fiction in this tried and tested process.
How are egg freezing and embryo freezing similar?
Let’s start with the familiar. At this point, you might have heard about hormone injections as well as egg retrieval for egg freezing. Both of those things still happen when preparing for embryo freezing. Both are also great alternatives for family planning because they provide more options for conceiving in the future.
How are egg freezing and embryo freezing different?
The post-egg retrieval process is where the differences between the two procedures begin. While “egg freezing” means your eggs are immediately frozen— unfertilized— “embryo freezing” involves fertilizing eggs before they are frozen. Unfertilized eggs are just eggs, the way your uterus makes them, and fertilized eggs means they’ve been injected with sperm through the process of IVF. Of course, fertilizing eggs means you’d need to make a decision on where your sperm donor comes from (a decision that can be postponed if you’re only egg freezing).
What are the pros to embryo freezing?
Thawing out embryos has a slightly higher birth success rate; mainly because the embryo has a little bit of a head start by the time it’s ready to be implanted into your uterus or a surrogate. Another bonus is when it comes time to defrost your embryo, you don’t have to decide where you will be getting the sperm from because you’d have already checked that off before the freezing process (sperm donor? Check!) Also, studies are starting to show that frozen embryos have a higher success rate than just “fresh,” never frozen, transplanted embryos.
Is there a downside?
While for some choosing either a donor or a partner and checking it off the to-do list right away could be a pro, for others it could definitely be a con. A lot of women aren’t ready to make that decision and would rather wait. In which case egg freezing would be the better option.
What is needed for an embryo?
At this point, we’re just talking about the birds and the bees. To create an embryo you’ll need to have your eggs harvested which would then be fertilized by sperm through IVF. That means you’ll go through the same process as you would for egg freezing and (as mentioned before) you’ll have to make a decision on where the sperm will come from. Once the eggs are fertilized with sperm (sperm you’ve selected) it becomes a zygote, then a blastocyst (just some science-y terms for saying that the cells keep dividing and multiplying), and then finally you get your embryo — ta-da! Once IVF has been completed and has moved into the early part of the development stage of an embryo, we freeze and hold on to it until you’re ready.
What does it all come down to?
Knowing what you want and when you want it. If you have a partner or are willing to put time into choosing a sperm donor and want the slightly higher success rate that frozen embryos bring, then it’s probably the right decision for you.
If after all this you still have more questions, we have a great staff of fertility specialists who would be glad to talk to you about your options. Reserve a consultation here, ask all the questions, and demystify the process of embryo freezing.