Since 1978, embryologists and fertility specialists, like those at Midwest Reproductive Center, have painstakingly and scientifically simulated the reproductive process so infertile couples can experience the wonder and joy of pregnancy. The in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process has remained much the same, but research findings continue to improve the success rates.
One such study, presented this month at a European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting, examines the success rates of fresh cycle embryo transfer versus frozen embryo transfer (FET).
Rather than transferring fresh embryos (egg and sperm join together to form an embryo) within days of completing a cycle of IVF, these European studies indicate a 30 percent higher success rate with frozen embryos thawed and transferred in subsequent months.
Why wait for frozen egg embryo transfer?
The theory is that when a woman’s body returns to its natural state, without drug interaction to stimulate the ovaries, the thawed embryo will have a higher implantation rate in the endometrial lining. Some fertility clinics are going so far as to recommend “freeze-all” IVF cycles, in which all embryos are cryopreserved (frozen) for future frozen egg transfer cycles.
Vitrification, a fast-freezing technique recently perfected, now allows fertility labs to improve on many applications of cryopreservation, including donor eggs to be used with IVF, fertility preservation for cancer patients and frozen embryo transfer IVF cycles.
Dr. Dan Gehlbach, a reproductive endocrinologist who earned his medical degree just five years after the birth of the first IVF baby, has seen firsthand the evolution of advanced reproductive technology.
“This latest finding is interesting, but U.S. fertility specialists are still waiting for conclusive evidence on ‘freeze-all’ embryo transfer,” says Dr. Gehlbach.
No two IVF cycles are the same, with each phase closely monitored and adjusted based on how a woman’s body responds. That’s why it’s difficult to predict if frozen embryo transfer will be the “gold standard” and right for everyone.
How IVF works:
- Birth control pills and fertility medications, like Lupron, suppress a woman’s menstrual cycle.
- Fertility drugs stimulate egg production to increase IVF success rates.
- Egg retrieval involves an in-office procedure to carefully remove mature eggs.
- Embryologists introduce egg and sperm in a lab setting during the fertilization stage, and sometimes assist the sperm in fertilizing the egg in a procedure called ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Embryologists can also perform assisted hatching in certain cases when the female patient is older, or has a history of failed IVF attempts.
- The final stage of IVF, usually on day 3 or 5 of the cycle, involves transferring the embryo back to the uterus.
Frozen embryo transfer could help increase your chances of getting pregnant, but Dr. Gehlbach will discuss and recommend the fertility treatment plan that’s right for you. Contact Midwest Reproductive Center for an appointment.