Frozen embryo transfer lowers the risk of preterm delivery by 20 percent

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India has embraced frozen embryo transfer which is giving new hope to infertile couples. Here's all you need to know about this new technique

In the last two years, the Indian fertility sector has yielded significant success rates, owing to a new technology called frozen embryo transfer (FET). This technique has become an extremely viable option for couples coping with infertility before they move to a fresh IVF cycle. Or even those who want to opt for late pregnancies.

In fact in 2012, a study by Dr Abha Maheshwari of Aberdeen University, Scotland, sheds some light on the topic. Experts followed 37,000 pregnancies from fresh or thawed implantation and it states that when frozen embryos were used, it lowered the risk of bleeding during pregnancy to a whopping 30 percent.

This type of pregnancy also lowered the risk of birth of an underweight baby by 30 to 40 percent. In addition, it lowered the risk of preterm delivery and newborn deaths by about 20 percent.

Definition

The primary process of IVF is an embryo transfer, which usually takes 10 to 15 days as the embryo or embryos is injected into a woman’s womb. Frozen embryo transfer, in particular, is the process of freezing or thawing an embryo, which is later used for an IVF cycle.

Spare embryos from an IVF treatment can be frozen for future use, depending on their quality. Embryos can be stored for up to ten years for future treatment if the first cycle was unsuccessful or the woman is planning another pregnancy.

frozen embryo transfer

Frozen embryo transfer is the process of freezing or thawing an embryo, which is later used for IVF cycle

Who benefits from frozen embryo transfer?

This fertility technique is most beneficial to couples coping with infertility, single parents and couples above the age of 35 years.

Dr Shobha Gupta, Medical Director and IVF specialist at Mother’s Lap IVF Centre, Delhi, explains the benefit specifically on older women: “Let’s say a couple has a baby through IVF and the couple froze some of the eggs for future use. When she returns in a few years for an frozen embryo transfer for her second baby, her ovaries and eggs will have aged and her fertility will have statistically decreased somewhat, but her frozen embryos are just as good cellularly as they were when she was younger.”

Continue reading to know the cost of frozen embryo transfer 

What is the cost of frozen embryo transfer in India?

Ideally, the embryos are frozen with an IVF or Intra cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) cycle. So, the cost of IVF or ICSI would apply. There would be an additional cost of freezing the embryos and storing them per year.

However, egg freezing is not a very expensive procedure and has been adopted in India only in the last two years. But it has opened doors for many infertile men and women in the country.

See the chart below on egg freezing costs:

Procedure Cost
Freezing embryos Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000
Frozen embryo transfer cycle Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000

 

frozen embryo transfer

The medical cost of frozen embryo transfer is fairly reasonable in India as compared to treatments outside the country

What to expect during frozen embryo transfer process? 

Freezing is complex and you should be patient with the frozen embryo transfer process. This is how it happens.

Process of freezing and thawing eggs: The culture medium containing one or two embryos is loaded into a thin catheter with a syringe on the end. The doctor then carefully guides the catheter through the vagina and cervix, and deposits the embryo(s) into the uterus. Implantation begins three to four days later.

Cooling off period: After the embryo transfer, a woman has to wait approximately one to two weeks before a pregnancy can be detected. Once the embryo(s) are in, the woman has to take it easy for a couple weeks.

Dr Gupta of Mother’s Lap IVF Centre, Delhi, says, “Patients tend to get too emotional during the transfer, even though it is less involved and less stressful than IVF. The emotional roller coaster is still present, and as chaotic as ever. The preparation stage is still a drag, as the two-week wait will be also.”

After frozen embryo transfer, one must continue taking estrogen and progesterone. “In addition, you have to take pregnancy blood tests about 10 to 14 days later. The success rate is approximately 40 percent but it varies from clinic to clinic,” says Dr Gupta.

Continue to read more about the difference between fresh and frozen embryo transfer 

Difference between fresh and frozen embryo transfer

Apart from being cost-efficient, frozen embryo transfer also has other benefits. These include:

  • Fewer medications: During a fresh IVF cycle, the patient is usually superovulated with the help of injections so she can produce more eggs. However, in a frozen embryo transfer technique, patients are given oestrogen and progesterone to thicken the lining of the uterus. This helps their uterus to prepare itself for implantation. And since the eggs were retrieved in the prior cycle, the patient no longer needs anesthesia.
  • Less stressful: This technique is also much less stressful for couples than a fresh IVF cycle. That’s because stimulation response, egg retrieval and development, as well as embryo growth are factors that are considered during the fresh cycle.
frozen embryo transfer

The frozen embryo transfer technique is much less stressful for couples since they do not have to go through the entire IVF process again

Future of frozen embryo transfer in India

With thriving careers and high disposable incomes, more women are taking the gamble of egg freezing. This was illustrated in a 2008 study conducted by Motherchildnutrition.org. An increasing number of couples are opting for egg freezing. 

In a 2014 news piece published by The Guardian, UK, tech conglomerates Apple and Facebook announced that they will foot the bill of egg freezing process of their female employees so choose. They took the decision to attract more female employees and maintain their retention rates so they may have prolonged careers. 

Dr Gupta says that there are two three reasons why Indian couples are now option for frozen embryo transfer:

  1. Many couples who work for IT firms, BPO’s and in management backgrounds are busy with their careers and delay the baby-making process, thereby, giving them a reason to opt for freezing their sperms or eggs.
  2. Besides a prosperous career, the uncertainty of marriage and fear of infertility are two other major factors contributing to this trend.

“Also, the number and quality of eggs decline with the increase in age, hence the best time to freeze your eggs is in your 20s or early 30s (ideally below 35 years). Younger eggs yield higher the chances of conceiving. But due to less awareness about egg freezing, women usually consider this option at a later stage,” says Dr Gupta.

If a woman waits until she is 40 before trying to have children, she may need several rounds of IVF to conceive, which adds up monetarily. “Also, at the age of 40, there is no guarantee that she will become pregnant even with IVF as her eggs are of far poorer quality. On the other hand, if she freezes her eggs at the age of 30 and then has them re-inserted ten years later, the chances of a baby are three to five times greater,” Dr Gupta points out.

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