How long can the embryos be frozen safely?
Will the banking period affect the quality of embryos?
Frozen embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen at -180 C degree. This way, embryos can be theoretically preserved for an indefinite time frame. In November 2020, Molly Everette Gilbson set the new known record for the longest frozen embryo to ever come to birth – she was born after transfer of an embryo frozen 27 years before.
The embryo banking process starts much like IVF treatment. Medications are taken to stimulate the ovaries to simultaneously grow multiple eggs that can then be retrieved from the body. After retrieval, eggs will be fertilized with sperm and form the embryos. They will be cultured for 5-7 days and then frozen in liquid nitrogen.
Should I choose egg freezing or embryo banking?
Many women choose embryo banking if they have a partner, or if they feel more reassured with a certain number of embryos created and available for future use.
Compared with egg freezing, freezing embryos DOES give you more information up front; namely, you’ll know how many embryos are available for use right after the IVF treatment. If you freeze your eggs, you will not know how well your frozen egg will perform until you thaw them, which could be years after egg freezing. By that time, if you did not achieve good embryos from thawed frozen eggs and must go through another IVF cycle, you might not have good egg quality and reproductive potential.
With that being said, egg freezing gives you more ‘reproductive autonomy’. Freezing embryos with a sperm donor might mean you are somewhat ‘locked in’ should you plan a family with a future partner. Egg freezing costs less than embryo freezing and can make the decision of discard simpler if you do not need to use them in the future. Discarding frozen embryos could be a complex moral dilemma for some women and couples.
Talk to us about your personal and reproductive goals. We are here to help you to make this important decision.
Step 1: Stimulation
During your natural monthly cycle, eggs grow in fluid-filled sacs (called follicles) on the ovaries, and only one egg will mature and be released through ovulation. The rest will be naturally reabsorbed. The embryo banking process, as with egg freezing (link to egg freezing), helps more eggs to mature.
To do this, you will take medication for 9-12 days to help stimulate your ovaries. We will assess your situation, discuss your goals, and choose the best stimulation protocol for you. You will have several clinic visits to monitor the egg growth via ultrasound and blood tests. When the eggs are large enough, you will take one shot of medication to trigger the final maturation of the eggs.
Step 2: Egg Retrieval
The doctor will collect the eggs from your ovaries through a simple procedure called the egg retrieval.
Unlike many fertility centers, we use a much smaller and thinner needle, resulting in a safer and less painful experience. Local anesthesia is typically adequate, and most patients can walk out and drive home after the retrieval. IV sedation is also available if needed.
Your partner will collect the semen on the day of egg retrieval. Eggs will be fertilized with sperm and be cultured for 5-7 days until ready for preimplantation genetic testing (link to Preimplantation genetic testing) or frozen.
If you undergo egg freezing (link to Egg Freezing), eggs will be frozen in the liquid nitrogen shortly after egg retrieval.
At Think Fertility, we will take you through the process step-by-step.