In 1985, my mentors, Drs. Howard W. Jones Jr. and his wife Georgeanna Seegar Jones, the two pioneers of in-vitro fertilization in the USA and the entire western hemisphere, proposed the potential benefits of cryopreserving or freezing embryos following an IVF cycle. They predicted that cryopreserving embryos for future transfers would increase the overall success rate of IVF and make the procedure more efficient and cost effective. They also suggested that it would reduce the overall risks of IVF. For example, one fresh IVF cycle might yield many embryos which can be used in future frozen embryo transfer cycles, if necessary. This helps to limit the exposure to certain risks confronted only in a fresh IVF cycle such as the use of injectable stimulation hormones, the egg retrieval operation, and general anesthesia.
At East Coast Fertility, we are realizing the Jones? dream of safer, more efficient and cost effective IVF. By utilizing the ability to cryopreserve embryos in 2007, 61.5% (118/192) of patients under 35 were successful in having a live birth as a result of only one egg stimulation and retrieval cycle! In addition, because of our outstanding Embryology Laboratory, we are usually able to transfer as few as 1 or 2 high quality embryos per cycle and avoid risky triplet pregnancies. In fact, since 2002, the only triplet pregnancies we have experienced have resulted from the successful implantation of two embryos, one of which goes on to split into identical twins (this is rare!). By cryopreserving embryos in certain high-risk circumstances, we are able to vastly reduce the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome requiring hospitalization. At East Coast Fertility, safety of our patients comes first. Fortunately, our success with frozen embryo transfers is equivalent to that of fresh embryo transfers, so that pregnancy rates are not compromised in the name of safety, nor are the babies.
Today, as reported in the Daily Science: ?The results are good news as an increasing number of children, estimated to be 25% of assisted reproductive technology (ART) babies worldwide, are now born after freezing or vitrification? (a process similar to freezing that prevents the formation of ice crystals).
The study, led by Dr Ulla-Britt Wennerholm, an obstetrician at the Institute for Clinical Sciences, Sahlgrenska Academy (Goteborg, Sweden), reviewed the evidence from 21 controlled studies that reported on prenatal or child outcomes after freezing or vitrification.
She found that embryos that had been frozen shortly after they started to divide (early stage cleavage embryos) had a better, or at least as good, obstetric outcome (measured as preterm birth and low birth weight) as children born from fresh cycles of IVF (in vitro fertilization) or ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). There were comparable malformation rates between the fresh and frozen cycles. There were limited data available for freezing of blastocysts (embryos that have developed for about five days) and for vitrification of early cleavage stage embryos, blastocysts and eggs.
?Slow freezing of embryos has been used for 25 years and data concerning infant outcome seem reassuring with even higher birth weights and lower rates of preterm and low birth weights than children born after fresh IVF/ICSI. For the newly introduced technique of vitrification of blastocysts and oocytes, very limited data have been reported on obstetric and neonatal outcomes. This emphasizes the urgent need for properly controlled follow-up studies of neonatal outcomes and a careful assessment of evidence currently available before these techniques are added to daily routines. In addition, long-term follow-up studies are needed for all cryopreservation techniques,? concluded Dr Wennerholm.
The use of frozen embryos has become a common standard of care in most IVF Programs. At East Coast Fertility we are able to keep multiple pregnancy rates down - by only transferring one or two embryos at a time - while allowing patients to hold on to the additional embryos that they may have created during the fresh cycle. It is like creating an insurance plan for patients. We developed a unique financial incentive program using the technology of cryo-preservation to encourage patients to transfer only one healthy embryo at a time. In order to ensure the best out come for mother and child - these special pricing plans take the burden off the patient to pay for the additional transfers and the cryo- preservation process. We have eliminated the cost of cryopreservation, storage and embryo transfer for patients in the single embryo transfer program. Thus, patients no longer have that financial pressure to put all their eggs in one basket! We truly believe we are practicing the most successful, safe and cost effective IVF utilizing cryopreservation.
David Kreiner, MD FACOG
completed his RE and Infertility fellowship in 1987 at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine, the team that pioneered the technology of IVF in the U.S. His resume includes founder and director of Long Island IVF and ECF.