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Embryos, to freeze or not to freeze?

cryopreservationThat is one of many tough questions that couples are faced with when considering in-vitro fertilization (IVF). While embryo freezing is usually the recommended option it also brings up a moral issue of what to do with the unused frozen embryos? In the article Fertility medicine brings babies-and tough decisions the Washing ton Post discusses the dilemma that couples face once embryos are successfully frozen.

The embryos that are not immediately transferred back in the uterus can be cryopreserved through a process called vitrification, once frozen there are a few options as to what to do with them.  As the article states “… of 58 couples with leftover embryos, 72 percent hadn’t decided what to do with them.” At GENESIS we educate our patients about the important decision of freezing embryos and its ramifications. Below are some of the options we discuss.

Storage– with our current advancements in technology the embryos can remain frozen for long periods of time without diminishing its qualities for a successful pregnancy. Couples can choose this option when they are having a difficult time deciding on what to do with their embryos or need to hold off on transferring them until the timing is right for pregnancy. This option can be costly in the long run, but can provide couples additional time while they contemplate their choices.

Implantation– the embryos can be saved for implantation at a later date. The procedure would be done through a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) cycle. FET cycles can be done for many reasons such as a contraindication for a fresh transfer, an unsuccessful transfer, or even to have an additional child. Freezing embryos for this purpose is also physically and financially beneficial as they would have an option to have multiple transfers with only one retrieval cycle.

Donation– Donating embryos have become a more frequent occurrence as the process has been made easier. Embryos can be donated to other prospective parents. They can be donated to a known donor or an anonymous donor, giving others a chance to achieve their dreams of creating a family.

They can also be donated to research, since President Obama has lifted the ban on stem cell research it has been increasingly common practice. While it the embryos will not directly result in life, the contributions to research that they may provide can change many lives in the future.

Discarded– the last and possibly the most difficult decision is to have the remaining embryos thawed and discarded. While some may find that to be a simple decision, others may have more of an attachment to their embryos, their unborn children. The financial and emotional toll may lead to a delayed but eventual discarding of the embryos. Some may choose to have a ceremony for them as a sort of memorial and to give a sense of closure; while others may choose to have a compassionate transfer, a procedure where the embryo is transferred when the implantation cannot occur leading to the natural discharge of the embryo.

At the end of the day, couples must decide for themselves what is best for them. Our Clinical Psychologist, Kris Bevilacqua can offer counseling and support while they are making this important decision.

If you would like to learn more about GENESIS Fertility or are ready to schedule an appointmentplease speak with one of our New Patient Specialists at 718-283-8600