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Embryo cryopreservation

The process of freezing embryos is called cryopreservation. These embryos can be used in future IVF treatment. Book an appointment online today.

Embryo cryopreservation being explained to a patient, with the doctor pointing to a diagram on a laptop
During an IVF treatment cycle, the ovaries are stimulated to produce more than one egg to maximise the chance of success. Since no more than one or two embryos are usually transferred during a treatment cycle there may be spare embryos remaining after treatment. It is possible for these spare embryos to be frozen, stored, and transferred during a subsequent treatment cycle with the advantage of fewer drugs and a much simpler treatment.

The process of freezing is called cryopreservation.

A frozen embryo can be used in a future cycle without having to undergo the preliminary drug treatment and surgery. The treatment cycle is therefore much simpler for the patient and if you are self-funding the cost will be much less than a full IVF treatment cycle.

In order to freeze your embryos you need to be screened for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. It has been experimentally demonstrated that cross-contamination can occur between liquid nitrogen in which frozen embryos are stored and embryos when infectious agents such as viruses are present in the liquid nitrogen. We therefore need to know that you do not have these viruses before your embryos can be placed within a virus negative storage tank.

We do our utmost to ensure the safe storage of your embryo(s), but there is a small risk of process or equipment failure during the freezing, thawing and storing processes.

An Embryologist / Fertility Nurse Specialist will discuss the possibility of freezing and consent during your information counselling appointment prior to commencing your treatment.

Consent to storage is initially up to ten years. This can be extended in blocks of up to 10 years to a maximum of 55 years providing you complete new consent forms to extend your consent before your consent expires. These will be sent to you just prior to 12 months before the expiry date of your consent. When considering how long to consent for, please be aware that if you wish to store your embryos for a period less than 10 years, we will contact you to ask if you wish to consent to store for an additional period before the 10 year ‘renewal period’ commences. If you do not extend your consent within the limits of your consent period, your embryos will be removed from storage and be allowed to perish when your consent to storage expires. Consent periods are independent of payments or storage fees charged to continue to store embryos.

Yes, you can change your consent until the point at which the embryo(s) have been transferred. However, changes to consent regarding embryos are only valid where there is consent from both parties involved in creating the embryos. You can vary, extend or withdrawn your consent to storage in writing at any point in the storage period. Embryos can only be used with the consent of both parties. If one party withdraws their consent and the other party does not agree with this, the legally required 12 month cooling off period will be initiated. If after this time an agreement cannot be reached the embryos will be removed from storage and allowed to perish. If your relationship status changes it is important that you contact as soon as possible as you may wish to vary your consent particularly if you have a new partner and wish them to use your embryos in the event of your death. If you decide you would like your embryos to be removed from storage please contact the clinic and request the relevant paperwork to be sent out for you to complete and return.

A ‘freeze all embryos’ is elective freezing due to medical needs guided by your Consultant e.g. The patient is at an increased risk of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS) due to a high number of eggs being collected, or there is pathology within the uterus.

Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing which embryos will survive the freezing and thawing process. Approximately 90% of vitrified embryos survive the freeze-thaw process.

The most recent data verified by the HFEA show the following:

  • Live Births per thaw cycle (2018) – 17/71 = 24%
  • Pregnancies per thaw cycle (2019) – 28/83 = 34%
  • Centres own data (not verified by the HFEA) for pregnancies per thaw cycle in 2022 - 44/143 = 31%

The cost of freezing and storage will be charged annually on the anniversary of initial freezing, please consult the current price list for accurate costings. Please update us on any address changes.

If you have frozen embryos in storage and would like to make use of them, please make an appointment to see your Consultant so they can initiate the process.

You can consent to the posthumous use of your embryos in the event of your death. If you consent to this embryos can legally be stored for up to a maximum of 10 years from the date of death. This period CANNOT be extended. Men can consent to being posthumously registered as the father of any child in the UK. If you become incapacitated you can consent to the storage and use of a maximum of 10 years, this period CANNOT be extended unless you regain mental capacity in the opinion of a medical practitioner. In both cases if you consent to a period of time shorter than 10 years this will be the maximum time your samples can remain in storage and your partner will not be able to benefit from the full amount of time (10 years) permitted in law. If your partner is not named on your consent form(s) they cannot legally use your embryos even if you have provided legal consent to posthumous use or use if you become mentally incapacitated.

After your death or if you become mentally incapacitated treatment would involve a surrogate, then additional consent forms must be completed to allow treatment to take place, you must also be screened in line with requirements for gamete donors.

If in the future you do not wish to keep your embryos for your own treatment, you have the option to donate them for use in someone else’s treatment, training or research. If you give consent for storage for use in training after completing your own treatment then it is possible that your embryos may be used in training even after your death or mental incapacity as we are unlikely to know that you have died or lost mental capacity, particularly if you are no longer having treatment and would not be in contact with the centre. If you do not wish for this to happen, you should not give consent to storage for use in training. Further information about each of these options will be provided when appropriate.

Support counselling is available before, during and after your treatment. Sometimes patients are undecided on what to do with their frozen embryo(s). Should you feel that way, speaking to your Consultant, a member of staff or our counsellor may help you with that decision. Please contact the Fertility Reception where an appointment with the counsellor can be booked for you.

Specialists offering Embryo cryopreservation

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