I frequently receive pictures and cards from patients who have successfully undergone fertility treatment. My favorite Christmas card is a picture of an older and a younger child. In a sense, they were twins separated at conception. The older child was the product of a fresh In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) embryo transfer. The younger child was the result of a cryopreserved embryo from that same IVF cycle that was subsequently used in a frozen embryo transfer cycle.
The majority of women under the age of 35 will have sufficient embryos available during their fresh IVF cycle so that extra embryos can be frozen. Several years ago, RMA of Philadelphia and Central Pennsylvania began exclusively using a more sophisticated freezing technology called vitrification. Frozen embryos can be viable for many years.
In my personal experience, the longest period during which embryos that were frozen resulted in children was nine years.
Most couples use their frozen embryos when their youngest child is a year or two old. I recently evaluated all of our frozen embryo transfers over the last year. It confirmed what I had expected. Excellent frozen embryo transfer pregnancy rates can be achieved using a patient’s own natural cycle if she ovulates every month. Alternatively, oral estrogen can be used for two weeks to prepare the lining of the uterus. Because of the outstanding quality of our frozen embryo transfer program, we do not recommend transferring more than a single frozen blastocyst embryo for women under age 35 or two blastocyst embryos under age 41.
Several recent studies have suggested children conceived with frozen embryos may have better health compared to those conceived during a fresh cycle. I think it is too early to tell whether the findings in this study are correct and that larger, longer term studies are necessary. However, this study does give us confidence that the use of frozen embryos as a routine part of fertility treatments is an excellent option.
If you are thinking about using your frozen embryos, please feel free to reach out to your physician at RMA of Philadelphia and Central Pennsylvania. You will be surprised how easy, quick, and successful the process is.
By: Art Castelbaum, MD