What is a Frozen Embryo?

Your Guide to Embryo Freezing Using IVF

The process of freezing your embryos can feel intimidating, but with the right support from your specialist and fertility clinic, you’ll be on the right track toward having the family of your dreams.

 

Frozen embryos are a vital component in the surrogacy process, offering intended parents an opportunity to start or grow their families even if they are experiencing infertility, are an LGBT+ couple or a hopeful single parent.

By utilizing frozen embryos, you increase your chances of a successful pregnancy while allowing for flexibility in your family planning journey.

If you need assistance finding the right clinic for your journey, we can connect you with reputable, experienced facilities to ensure you receive the best possible care and support.

Have embryos created? Contact us online now to connect with a specialist and begin the first steps of the surrogacy process.

What is a Frozen Embryo?

Embryo freezing, sometimes called embryo cryopreservation, occurs when you cryogenically freeze and store embryos for future use. An embryo is an egg that has been fertilized by sperm and is a process used to help people with fertility and reproduction.

This process often happens when people have undergone treatments to try and get pregnant. Some common practices include in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). These procedures often result in creating extra embryos, with some people choosing to use them later for:

  • Postponing implantation into uterus after an egg is already fertilized

  • Delaying IVF to a later date

  • Wanting an option in case early attempts of fertility treatment fail

  • Donating unused embryos to other people trying to get pregnant or to researchers rather than destroying them

Another reason why frozen embryos may be used is for fertility preservation. Those with conditions that can put their fertility at risk may choose to save fertilized eggs or embryos if treatment could affect their ability to have a baby.

 

What are the Benefits of Using Frozen Embryos?

Frozen embryos can help people get pregnant later in life if they’re currently facing obstacles on their journey to parenthood. Some common reasons you may choose to freeze embryos include:

  • Advancing age
  • Gender transition
  • Infertility issues
  • Social or personal reasons
  • Receiving treatment that can damage fertility
  • Upcoming military deployment

Utilizing frozen embryos instead of fresh embryos is often less costly and allows you to preserve your fertility to plan for pregnancy when you’re ready. Not only that, but using frozen embryos often means less mental and physical stress on a woman’s body, as these embryos often mimic a natural cycle.

If you have frozen embryos and want to explore surrogacy as a path to parenthood, contact us online now to speak with a specialist about your options.

 

 

Embryo Cryopreservation Process
1
Begin fertility medications

Before going through with the procedure, your doctor will test your hormone levels and perform an ultrasound to ensure your body is ready to start the process. You’ll take injectable medications meant to stimulate your ovaries, growing follicles. When the follicles reach the optimal size, you’ll be administered a trigger shot to begin ovulation.  

2
Egg Retrieval

During this 15-30 minute procedure, the doctor will use ultrasound imaging to guide a hollow needle and catheter through the wall of the vagina to the ovary, collecting multiple eggs one at a time. The goal is that 10-20 eggs will be collected, depending on your age and the quality of your eggs. The eggs will then be frozen following the retrieval.

3
Fertilization

The eggs will be fertilized with the intended father’s sperm, or a sperm donor’s, and will be allowed to incubate for 5-7 days when the embryo reaches the blastocyst stage. You can then have the embryos genetically tested or biopsied before having them frozen.

4
Vitrification

The water in the embryo cells are replaced with a cryoprotectant agent before being flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen.

Emotions of Embryo Freezing

During this process, you may experience a wide range of emotions, including:

  • Hormonal fluctuations that cause mood swings similar to PMS symptoms such as fatigue, constipation, bruising, bloating, cramping and headaches.
  • Feeling out of control, anxious or sad.
  • Feeling like your body has failed you when fewer eggs are retrieved than expected.
  • Grief, anxiety or fear stemming from the decision to freeze your eggs.

Knowing how to prepare for the emotional roller coaster that comes with freezing your embryos can help you navigate the process with resilience. Be gentle with yourself and remember that you’ll likely return to normal in a few weeks. Should you experience complex emotions at any point throughout your journey, know that your fertility clinic and surrogacy specialist can connect you with resources on how to overcome these emotions.

Are Frozen Embryos Alive?

A frozen embryo is considered alive because they can still grow and be used to create a fertilized egg.  To create an embryo using a fertilized egg, an embryologist fertilizes one or more harvested eggs with a partners or donors sperm. The embryo is observed for five to seven days in a petri dish.

At this stage, embryos can be sampled for genetic testing, especially is the sample used is known to be a carrier of certain genetic conditions. These embryos are then graded and sorted into ones that will most likely be successful when implanted. Highly graded embryos can then be frozen using a process called vitrification.

How Long do Frozen Embryos Last?

If you’re not planning to use your frozen embryos immediately, like if you’re planning to pursue surrogacy, embryos can be stored depending on how far in the future you plan on using them and the clinic you’re working with. Typically, you could store your embryos for up to 55 years and would need to renew your consent every 10 years.

When storing your embryos, the cost and duration of storing can largely depend on your chosen clinic. If you’re unable to renew your consent or the clinic is having trouble reaching you, your embryos may be at risk of being removed from storage or disposed of. It’s best to ensure that your fertility clinic has up to date contact information so they can get ahold of you should they need.

We know that you want nothing more than to become parents. By knowing what to expect during the embryo freezing process, you’ll be on the right path toward fulfilling your dreams of having a child. If you have frozen embryos and want to learn more about pursuing surrogacy as a path to parenthood, contact us online now to speak with a specialist.