Since human embryos were first successfully frozen in 1984, embryo freezing has become an important part of the in vitro fertilization process. At Advanced Reproductive Concepts in Charlotte, North Carolina, we use vitrification to freeze and store embryos safely, maximizing your chances of achieving a successful pregnancy when the time is right. Dr. Mark Jutras has more than 30 years of experience in this field. Call or book online to arrange your consultation with him today.
At Advanced Reproductive Concepts, we fertilize several eggs during in vitro fertilization, often resulting in more than one healthy embryo. When the time comes to transfer a single embryo to your uterus, you have to decide what to do with the others. Freezing the healthy embryos offers insurance in case the transferred embryo fails, and also opens the door to future pregnancies at a date of your choosing.
At this stage, the embryo is still microscopic in size, around the thickness of a strand of hair. A fertilized egg can be frozen after a single day, but it’s more common to freeze embryos that have been allowed to develop for a few days — this makes them more robust. At Advanced Reproductive Concepts, our highly trained staff members use a process called vitrification. The embryo is rapidly frozen in liquid nitrogen so it can be stored in a state of suspended animation.
Vitrification freezes the embryo very quickly, dropping the temperature from 98.6ºF to -321ºF in just a fraction of a second. It also uses a kind of biological antifreeze called cryoprotectors to harden the embryo and prevent ice crystals from forming that could damage it. This protects the embryo during storage and thawing.
Embryos are stored inside white plastic tubes — known as straws — and given unique identity codes. These straws are placed in a secure container surrounded by liquid nitrogen. An embryo can be frozen indefinitely in these carefully controlled conditions. Most people use their stored embryos within three to five years, although successful pregnancies have resulted from embryos that have been frozen for more than 10 years.
Frozen embryos are a great backup plan if you are undergoing in vitro fertilization. If your fresh embryo transfer doesn’t result in a pregnancy, you can begin the process again without having to undergo ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, and fertilization elements of the cycle. The frozen embryo transfer process is altogether less stressful — no surgery or anesthetic required — and has success rates comparable to, if not slightly higher than, fresh embryo transfer.
It’s also a way of extending your fertility, ensuring you have healthy embryos that you can have Dr. Jutras implant in the future when the chances of a successful pregnancy from your own eggs would otherwise be reduced by age.