In the world of reproductive technology, the term “embryo freezing” is one that’s thrown around quite a bit. It’s often used as a shorthand way to talk about the process of preserving embryos in liquid nitrogen.
But what exactly does it mean? And why are embryos — which are essentially just a few cells — frozen in the first place?
If you’re looking for answers to these questions or to learn more about embryo freezing services and how they might be able to help you, this article is for you.
Let’s get started!
What Is Embryo Freezing?
Embryo freezing, also known as cryopreservation, is a process that allows you to preserve an embryo at the genetic level. This means that if you have an embryo frozen and stored, you can choose to use it at a later date to have your baby.
Embryos can be frozen at various stages of development. It’s common to freeze embryos when they’re at the cleavage stage — when they’ve just split into two cells — or when they have reached the blastocyst stage — a few days after cleavage when cells begin to form a hollow ball that will later become an embryo.
Reasons to Freeze Your Surplus Embryos
If you’re thinking about freezing your embryos, you’re probably wondering if it’s the right choice for you.
There are several reasons why you might want to freeze your embryos, including:
Advancing age: As we get older, our fertility declines. Freezing your embryos gives you an option for having children later in life.
Gender transition: If you’re transitioning from female to male or male to female, freezing your embryos will give them an extra chance at life.
Infertility issues: If you have had multiple failed IVF cycles and don’t know why fertility specialists sometimes recommend freezing some of your embryos in case a later treatment is more successful.
Treatment that may damage fertility: If a treatment—such as chemotherapy for cancer—may damage fertility, freezing sperm and eggs or embryos before starting treatment can allow doctors or patients to preserve their ability to have biological children later on.
Social/personal reasons: If you’re looking to start a family at a later age, freezing your embryos can give you the option of having children when you’re ready.
How Does It Work?
Embryo freezing is a procedure that helps save and preserve embryos. The process involves vitrification or “freezing” embryos at -196 degrees Celsius.
During the freezing process, two methods are commonly used: slow freezing and vitrification.
Vitrification is the most common method of freezing embryos and involves a process called “cryopreservation,” in which water molecules are removed from the egg and replaced with cryoprotective agents. The embryo is then flash-frozen at very low temperatures so that it doesn’t have time to form ice crystals.
Slow freezing involves lowering the temperature of an embryo over time until it reaches -196 degrees Celsius (or -321 Fahrenheit). This method allows for more control over how long it takes for embryos to freeze and reduces risks associated with ice crystals forming in them, but it requires more time overall than vitrification does.
For either process, the embryos are stored and labeled. They are then transferred to an incubator where they stay until they’re ready to be thawed and transferred into the uterus.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Benefits of Embryo Freezing?
Embryo freezing is a great option for people who want to delay pregnancy. It’s also a good choice for women who have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions, such as endometriosis or high-risk pregnancy.
How Much Does It Cost to Freeze an Embryo?
The cost of your treatment will depend on the number of embryos you wish to freeze and the clinic you choose. Many clinics offer discounts when you freeze multiple embryos at once, so check out the prices at different facilities before making a decision.
Will the Procedure Hurt?
The procedure itself is not painful and can be performed in about 10 minutes, but there may be some discomfort afterward as your body adjusts to its new state of being frozen!
How Do I Know if I Should Freeze My Embryos?
There are a few factors to take into account, such as whether you want to have more children in the future and if you’re planning to move to a different country. If you want to keep your options open, then it could be a good idea. If you don’t know if you’ll want more children, but plan on moving somewhere where it’s difficult or impossible to get pregnant, then it might be worth considering.
What Does Freezing My Embryos Mean for My Health?
There are no negative effects on your health by freezing your embryos. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any risks involved — you should always consider what could happen if something goes wrong during the process of freezing and thawing your embryo(s).