Advancements and improved success rates within the field of assisted human fertilisation treatments are actively pursued across the world, and taking such sentiment into account, the vitrification of embryos continues to make ground-breaking progress. A procedure with an unquestionable contribution to the success of assisted human fertilisation treatments, it can also influence delicate aspects related to a successful pregnancy.
The numbers underline how crucial embryo vitrification can be as a reproductive medicine and can reduce the rates of multiple pregnancies, maximise each cycle within ovarian stimulation and make treatments more accessible to women over 40.
When compared to other manners of embryo conservation, data favours vitrification as optimal conditions can increase the survival rate and be a determining factor in success rates.
A frequent doubt regarding vitrification is whether any embryo is able to undergo such treatment. As in almost every assisted human reproduction treatment, a categorical guarantee cannot be given as some embryos do not meet quality requirements, although can be compensated by an exhaustive selection process which ensures those that have the potential to survive and capacity to be implanted are used.
What is Embryo Vitrification?
A novel treatment used for preserving embryos, embryo verification was considered an experimental treatment until 2013 until the prestigious American Society for Reproductive Medicine ratified it as a certified technique to be practised. Since becoming available it has become a priority for assisted human reproduction treatment clinics of reference.
Why? The explanation is simple: the results speak for themselves, particularly in cases where difficulties achieving pregnancy are more complex. Before the inception of this practice, embryos were slowly frozen in an attempt to avoid the formation of ice layers among cells, and at a consequence, implantation rates using this system were much lower than those obtained with fresh embryos.
Embryo vitrification – also referred to as the cryopreservation of embryos – is an additional conservation option and can accelerate the freezing process with speed rates of around 15,000º C per minute compared to 0.3º C per minute using the conventional method, while an innocuous gel is formed instead of ice which does not damage the cells of an embryo.
Such scientific terminology is best summarised by results: embryo vitrification produces an implantation rate of 50% in comparison to traditional freezing where the per centage was reduced to one in three women.
Who is Embryo Vitrification recommended for?
Any couple considering or undergoing in vitro fertilisation is a potential candidate for embryo vitrification as it can enhance the results of ovarian stimulation in assisted human reproduction treatments.
The vitrification of embryos is therefore suggested for those undergoing assisted human reproduction treatment in order to take advantage of a surplus in quality embryos which are unable to be transferred in that particular cycle. It is worth bearing in mind that the survival rate of cryopreserved embryos is between 95%-100%.
The vitrification of embryos is particularly recommended for:
- Women at risk of suffering from Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome since vitrification of embryos do not have to receive stimulation treatment.
- Diagnosed anomalies or damage to the endometrium.
- Women over 38 years of age. This is considered an age where the success rates of implanted embryos are reduced.
- In couples that need an implanted Genetic Diagnosis, to preserve embryos in the best conditions until the test results are received.
The Embryo Vitrification process
One immediate advantage to embryo vitrification is the simplification of IVF treatment. Hormone injections and ultrasound checks are not required beforehand, while the process can be summarised as:
- Endometrium preparation. Depending on the case, this phase is limited to checking the uterus is in the best condition to receive an embryo transfer by monitoring a natural menstrual cycle. Women who do not ovulate regularly, oestrogen is administered for about 12 days via pills or patches to facilitate the development of the endometrium.
- A follow-up ultrasound scan is carried out around 10 days after the first day of a period.
- Thawing of the embryos. A couple of days prior to undergoing the embryo transfer, the laboratory will take care of the devitrification of the embryos and keep them in culture until implantation.
- Embryo transfer. Between three and five days before transfer you will receive a dose of progesterone (oral or vaginal). Vitrified embryos implantation is concurrent with the one used for the fresh embryos and there is no difference in subsequent care or medical recommendation.
The vitrification of embryos is the future today. For women and couples who require the support of reproductive medicine, it is a ground-breaking methodology which optimizes resource and effort while also ensuring the same probability of success rates when fresh embryos are used.