Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What is Embryo Freezing?


In this week's Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday segment we focus on embryo freezing and how doctors are now using it as a technique to increase the chance of pregnancy for people going through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Doctors at the Reproductive Medicine and Surgery Center of Virginia are using a new technique when it comes to IVF – it’s called embryo freezing. 

“In the beginning of 2016, as we were looking at our information related to pregnancy rates, it became apparent that embryos that have been purposefully frozen before being transferred to the uterus seemed to be leading to a higher pregnancy rate than the kind of traditional way of doing IVF where fresh embryos are transferred,” noted Dr. Laura Smith.

Dr. Smith is a provider at the practice and says the freezing technique is now used with the majority of their patients. It’s increased the success of pregnancy in IVF patients under the age of 35 from 50% to 65%. 

“That’s a substantial difference.  15% chance of pregnancy is a really big difference in our field,” said Dr. Smith. 

While the data shows much higher success rates, freezing really has nothing to do with it. “It actually has nothing to do with the duration the embryos are frozen,” commented Dr. Smith. 

Instead, it’s likely due to the fact that the extra time before implantation allows a women’s uterus to go back to a baseline state. 

“During an IVF cycle a patient’s estrogen level is very, very, high – much higher than usual.  And the thought is that perhaps something about having a high estrogen level when the embryos are put back in the uterus has a negative impact on implantation,” said Dr. Smith. 

The freezing technique does take about eight additional weeks, but in the end, doctors think it’s worth the wait. 

“It takes patience. We’re not going to put the embryos back immediately, but adding that extra eight weeks of time makes such a big increase in the chance of pregnancy that the time is worth it,” commented Dr. Smith. 

For more information on this topic please call 1-800-SENTARA.   If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, email healthquestions@nbc29.com

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

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