In vitro fertilization (IVF) with embryo cryopreservation a suitable fertility preservation option for women who are partnered or willing to use donor sperm. There are several reasons that women choose to cryopreserve embryos including:
- To preserve fertility before cancer treatment or starting medications that negatively impact ovarian function,
- To provide a higher chance of pregnancy in the event she does not want to have a baby until she is older, and/or
- To identify which embryos carry pathogenic gene mutations that can be passed down to future children (preimplantation genetic testing – PGT).
In this procedure, injectable fertility drugs (called gonadotropins) are used to stimulate the ovaries to recruit and mature multiple follicles that each contain an oocyte (egg). Most women will take these drugs for 8 to 12 days. During this time, she is asked to come in several times for monitoring, which includes an ultrasound and bloodwork to assess how she is responding to the fertility drugs. Once she has enough follicles that are large enough to produce a mature egg, she is given a drug to mature the eggs and 36 hours later, the eggs are retrieved through a simple outpatient procedure called a transvaginal oocyte retrieval.
The retrieval takes about 30 minutes while the woman is under anesthesia. The oocytes that are obtained are then fertilized with sperm to make embryos. The embryos are placed in culture for up to a week. At that time, they can be directly cryopreserved or biopsied for PGT and then cryopreserved. The entire process takes approximately two weeks, with an additional week for embryo culture and cryopreservation. At a later date when the woman wants to conceive, the embryos can then be warmed and placed into the woman’s uterus (embryo transfer).
Embryo cryopreservation is a well-established method of fertility preservation. Success rates (the rates of having a live birth) are largely dependent on the age at which a woman undergoes oocyte retrieval, with younger women having higher rates of success than older women.
If you have considered IVF with embryo cryopreservation, please schedule a consultation with a Baylor Medicine reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, who would be happy to talk through the process as you decide if it is right for you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the Family Fertility Center at 832-826-7272.