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The latest in IVF: Frozen embryo transfer

Science and medicine have come far in creating methods to help women with fertility problems maintain hope for conceiving a baby. A frozen embryo transfer is one of the newest techniques being used in in-vitro fertilization (IVF) today, and it has shown  great potential to improve the odds of successful pregnancy. Recent scientific studies seem to suggest that there are a lot of benefits to a frozen embryo transfer, including higher pregnancy rates and fewer labour complications. Read on to find out more about this new IVF method.

How traditional IVF works

In traditional IVF, your ovaries are stimulated through drug treatment to produce a greater number of eggs. These are then harvested by your gynecologist. The healthiest embryos are chosen and implanted in your womb within three to six days. Due to concerns over conceiving multiples, your gynecologist would not advise implanting too many embryos at once — three is usually the max.

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The problem with this way of doing things is that the embryos not chosen for implantation eventually die, and you have to stimulate your ovaries for another round, which may not produce the same number of eggs. Another issue is that after egg extraction, your womb may not have recovered from the procedure, and may not be in an ideal condition to sustain the pregnancy. In addition, you may have side effects from the IVF drugs which don’t help.

How freezing embryos improves results

Scientists have now figured out how to successfully freeze embryos right after fertilization, to eliminate the problem of them dying and going to waste. What this means is that your gynecologist can fertilize all the eggs you produce in one IVF cycle. Let’s say, out of ten eggs, six are successfully fertilized. Your doctor can then implant two in your womb and freeze the other four for future attempts.

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Another advantage is that implantation need not take place immediately. You can transfer a frozen embryo during your next menstrual cycle, which gives your womb time to rebuild its lining. Of course, not all embryos can survive the freezing and thawing process. The benefit of this though, is that only the strongest and healthiest ones survive, which increases the likelihood that the pregnancy will succeed.

Advantages of frozen embryos

Research into the benefits of using frozen embryos is still in its early stages, but a number of studies have demonstrated remarkable results. Early studies in 2012 found that pregnancy rate went up to 50% for women who received a formerly frozen embryo versus 38% for women who had a fresh embryo transferred. A 2013 paper by the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and the Origen Center for Reproductive Medicine also found that frozen embryos were at least as good, if not better, than fresh embryos. The good news doesn’t end there. One Aberdeen University trail also found that frozen embryos reduced bleeding during pregnancy by 30%, underweight babies by 30-40%, premature birth by 20% and stillbirth by 20%.

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Do these frozen embryos grow up healthy though? The answer, for the most part, seems to be yes. One study in Britain compared 384 babies born from a fresh embryo with 104 babies born from a frozen embryo transfer and found that babies born from frozen embryos were actually healthier and heavier. So if this is the first you’ve heard of frozen embryos, consider talking to your gynecologist about adopting this strategy in your IVF treatment.

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