Embryo Freezing (Vitrification)
Having the ability to preserve your embryos is very important. For many patients, this allows more than one chance for pregnancy after only one egg retrieval. For others, they choose to delay their embryo transfer either for genetic testing (PGT) of the embryos, or because you are not ready to have the embryos transferred into your womb at the time your eggs are collected.
One of the major hurdles of traditional freezing techniques is that ice-crystal formation is VERY damaging to embryos; this hurdle had never been fully overcome until vitrification was introduced. Vitrification works on a completely different principle for cryo-storing embryos. By suspending the embryo in a ‘glass-like’ state among high concentrations of cryoprotectants in liquid nitrogen (vitrification), we are able to avoid ice-crystal formation and offer a more reliable and successful cryopreservation of embryos. The laboratory director at Cayman Fertility Center has been performing embryo vitrification since 2006. As a result, “frozen” embryo pregnancy rates are nearly equal to those of fresh embryo transfers.
Embryo Cryopreservation is the process by which surplus embryos from an IVF or ICSI cycle may be stored or frozen, for use at a later date. Embryos can be frozen at different developmental stages – up to and including blastocyst stage. Our Embryologist selects the embryos suitable for freezing. Your embryos are then introduced into special culture media, called cryoprotectant, to help protect them during the freezing and storage process. The embryos are then frozen using a computerized embryo freezer. Once frozen, the embryos are contained within appropriately labeled sterile straws. These straws are then securely stored in a locked storage vessel immersed in liquid nitrogen ( –196 degrees C). Embryos can be safely stored like this for up to 5 years.
Embryo Thawing is the process by which frozen embryos are warmed with a view to placing the most suitable into your uterus. The freezing and warming of embryos allows you to use embryos created in previous cycles. During thawing, frozen embryos are warmed in a controlled manner. Once warmed your embryos are introduced back into embryo culture. Your embryos are warmed the morning of the embryo transfer in order that the embryo’s development can be monitored as in some cases not all embryos survive the freeze/thaw process. On the day of transfer, Dr. Davis will perform the embryo transfer procedure, generally in the afternoon. The selected embryos are introduced, through a fine catheter, into your uterus. Typically 1-3 embryos are transferred, depending on your specific circumstances. The embryo transfer procedure, which is similar to a PAP smear, takes no more than 20 minutes and few women experience any discomfort.
Until recently, the long-term reliability of embryo storage methods has not been questioned. As a consequence of events in the U.S. in 2018, we have built our facility to the highest standards of safety and reliability. We have several measures in place to ensure your embryos are safe and will remain that way until you are ready to use them. From brand new state of the art storage tanks to the best hurricane rating for the lab, you can be comfortable knowing we are watching over your embryos.
Some women have embryos frozen at a different practice and choose to have those embryos warmed at Cayman Fertility Centre. Our staff has years of experience coordinating this process for patients. It is important to know however the odd of success for a frozen embryo transfer depends in part on the quality of the lab that froze your embryos. Please contact us to receive more details on this procedure and increase your success.