Embryo Cryopreservation

The Emory Reproductive Center offers patients an outstanding Cryopreservation Program that freezes and stores embryos for future use.

IVF treatment can sometimes result in the production of more embryos than can be safely transferred to a patient at one time. Implantation of an excessive number of embryos can also increase the risk of multiple births. In addition, freezing, thawing and using the excess embryos at a later date can sometimes prevent the need to undergo another treatment cycle and egg retrieval, which reduces cost, time and patient stress.

The first birth from a frozen embryo was in 1984. Since then, seventy-one IVF centers in the United States have reported successful pregnancies or birth from frozen embryos. More than half of cryopreserved (frozen) embryos survive after thawing. The chance of a pregnancy from a frozen embryo is about the same as with a non-frozen embryo.

At the Emory Reproductive Center, 30 percent to 40 percent of the women undergoing oocyte (egg) retrieval have excess embryos of sufficient quality to warrant freezing and storage. The quality of the embryo cryopreservation program at Emory is reflected in the pregnancy rates achieved with frozen embryo transfer.

The Process of Cryopreservation

At the Emory Reproductive Center, the mechanical process of embryo cryopreservation is laboratory controlled to reduce the risk of technical failure.

Only high quality embryos are selected for cryopreservation since poor quality embryos seldom survive the freezing and thawing processes. Once frozen, the embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of approximately -320 degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen embryos can be stored indefinitely.

Emory uses a back-up system to minimize the risk of interruption in the freezing process. Liquid nitrogen storage containers are armed with an automatic alarm system to monitor nitrogen levels and prevent premature thawing. Storage of frozen embryos can be continued for at least five years.

Individual embryos are labeled and identified according to origin, developmental stage and date frozen. Permanent records are kept at the storage location of individual embryos.

As with all medical care and procedures performed at the Emory Reproductive Center, confidentiality of all records will be maintained.

Advantages of Cryopreservation

The Ethics Committee of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine has suggested the following advantages of cryopreservation.

  • Reduction of the risk of triplets or quadruplets by using cryopreservation to store embryos that exceed an optimal number for transfer.
  • Potentially increases pregnancy rates by replacing thawed embryos during spontaneous ovulatory cycles or cycles in which the estrogen and progesterone hormone levels do not exceed those that occur naturally.
  • Potentially decreases the number of stimulated treatment cycles needed to achieve pregnancy.

Attend a free fertility seminar.