Frozen In Time

The first successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) occurred in 1978 after fertilizing and implanting a fresh embryo. Scientists later realized that frozen embryos could survive under the right conditions. In the 1980s, fertility specialists began freezing embryos, but the process was not widely approved for use. Today, frozen embryos are now commonplace. Yet, the ability to freeze embryos raises the question of frozen embryo viability. How long can each stay frozen until the time for implantation?

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Why would you freeze your embryos?

Most people choose IVF to get pregnant now, so why would someone choose embryo freezing? For starters, IVF success is not 100% guaranteed on the first try. However, statistics show the success rate increases significantly per cycle. Therefore, freezing helps to preserve embryos for use in future IVF cycles. Frozen embryos also help couples who wish to delay pregnancy due to career or health reasons. Embryo freezing is now more accessible, with over 500,000 preserved in clinics across the country.

How are embryos frozen?

Fertility clinics create embryos by fertilizing an egg with healthy sperm in a petri dish. After a few days, these cells form into viable embryos. The best unused embryos are frozen using a process called vitrification. Vitrification removes the water from the cells. The cells are then frozen using liquid nitrogen, which can safely store the embryo for years. These are securely stored in medical facilities and donor clinics, with several contingencies. The embryos are thawed and prepared for use when the patient is ready, known as frozen embryo transfer.

How long can embryos stay viable?

Thanks to the freezing process, embryos can safely be used months or years later. Studies show that frozen embryos are just as viable as fresh ones. So far, researchers have found no genetic abnormalities or concerns due to freezing. On average, women or couples use embryos 5-10 years after the initial freezing.

What was the longest frozen embryo ever used?

There is some fantastic evidence that supports the viability of frozen embryos. The previous record was a successful pregnancy from a 24-year-old embryo. In recent years, this record was broken by a successful birth from a 27-year-old embryo. Researchers have not yet identified limitations to the time an embryo will remain viable.

The future is frozen

Frozen embryos are an essential part of the IVF process. Couples can try multiple cycles, which increases the chances of success. Furthermore, frozen embryos are less costly than repeated fresh IVF cycles. There are some considerations that impact frozen embryo viability. For instance, women under 35 can provide more viable eggs, which may create healthier embryos. The evidence shows that these embryos stay frozen for several years. A fertility clinic can provide further information and personalized options for couples looking to get pregnant.

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