Over the past several years, there has been a trend towards transferring embryos after biopsying and freezing, rather than fresh and immediately following egg retrieval. Embryo cryopreservation or freezing has been used for decades in human IVF, but advances in technique (vitrification) and genetic testing (comprehensive chromosomal screening) have made the technology even more effective.
There are a number of advantages transferring frozen embryos, and RMA of New York is pleased to offer to patients in order to increase their chances of successfully achieving their family goals.
As in fresh IVF cycles, the egg retrieval process is performed under sedation, and a needle is passed through the vagina and guided into each ovary using ultrasound. The procedure takes less than 10 minutes.
The collected eggs are then fertilized in the RMA of New York laboratory using a partner’s or donor’s sperm. Embryologists use high-power microscopes and steady precision to fertilize the eggs with sperm. At times, the sperm are released on top of the oocyte to fertilize it. If necessary, a single sperm can be injected individually into each egg, using a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
The embryos (fertilized eggs) can be grown in the laboratory for up to seven days before either being biopsied and analyzed, or simply frozen by embryo cryopreservation.
The embryos can remain frozen for years and still be thawed and implanted when needed. This makes the process ideal for women who have a risk of implantation failing or who are planning to have a second or third child later on in life.
Over the last five years it has become apparent that the optimal success rate for embryo implantation occurs when an embryo is transferred into a prepared endometrium. For the first several decades of in vitro fertilization, it was common to retrieve, fertilize and then transfer fresh the best embryo or embryos into the uterus. The problem with performing a fresh embryo transfer is that the endometrium is often advanced and the chance of a successful implantation could be compromised.
Now that we routinely genetically screen embryos prior to transfer, and have data to support our medical decisions, it is clear that transferring an embryo into a prepared endometrium gives it a much greater chance of surviving and becoming a healthy ongoing pregnancy.
Freezing and thawing technologies have improved greatly, and in the top laboratories, nearly 98% of embryos survive vitrification and rewarming. The additional several weeks added to an IVF cycle by implementing modern IVF technologies (including biopsy, freezing, and thawing), is a minimal cost when weighed against higher success rates, lower miscarriage rates, and healthier babies. For women who undergo multiple cycles of IVF, this can save time as well as money.
The frozen embryo transfer procedure is similar to that of fresh embryo transfer. The embryos are transferred into the uterine cavity using a soft catheter and placed 1-2 cm from the uterine fundus.
Our clinical expertise in this area of assisted reproductive technology is readily available to all individuals seeking to achieve their family goals. Frozen embryo transfer will be discussed as an option with each patient, depending on their individual circumstances.
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