Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) – sounds like a crazy science experiment, doesn’t it? But for those dealing with infertility, FET can be a very real, very promising way of having a child.
So what exactly is FET? Well, the description kind of sounds like a bit complicated, but the concept is relatively simple. When a patient undergoing IVF produces more high quality embryos than she wants to transfer during a cycle, those extra embryos can be frozen (called cryopreservation) and stored in the lab for future use. In effect, FET can be viewed as a supplement to IVF.
Many clinics now use a freezing technique called vitrification. This process effectively freezes embryos by cooling them rapidly which protects the embryo inside a protective liquid, preventing the water inside the embryo from forming ice crystals and damaging it. The embryo is loaded onto a stick and plunged into liquid nitrogen. In about a minute, it is supercooled so that the nitrogen becomes solid. The embryo is then suspended in a glass-like bubble.
When the vitrified embryos are thawed, they look nearly identical to when they were fresh.
With vitrification, the survival rate of embryos is about 95% and they have almost no loss of quality when thawed.
Once someone chooses to thaw their embryo for implantation, there are a number of strategies they can choose to best prepare the uterine lining. One common process usually involves downregulation of one’s own natural cycle in order to replace your hormones with estrogen and then progesterone. This is done to mimic a natural cycle in a way that maximizes the chances of success so that implantation can take place.
Going beyond a medical standpoint, there are some great benefits that come along with using FET. With a proven success rate, patients can feel confident in choosing to transfer one embryo when doing their IVF and then freeze the rest. If the first try doesn’t result in pregnancy, they have just as good a chance of getting pregnant with the frozen ones using an FET cycle. Since patients can feel more comfortable doing a single transfer, the chances of a multiple pregnancy (which can be more dangerous for mother and baby) are much less.
FET also puts your body through less stress then undergoing multiple rounds of IVF. FET cycles don’t require the most trying aspect of IVF, the egg retrieval. The total amount of medication is far less, and FET avoids the frequent ultrasound and bloodwork required of an IVF cycle.
Patients can also use FET to grow their family in the future. Patients can actually use the frozen embryos from a single cycle of IVF to have their second or third child years apart without going through a new IVF cycle. This lessens the worry of the increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities and miscarriage that come with an older age pregnancy.
There are also some important financial benefits. An FET cycle is less than half the cost of an IVF cycle, even including the cost to cryopreserve and store the frozen embryos. And when you factor in the expenses that can be involved with twin pregnancies and having multiples, an FET cycle is more cost-efficient than risking a multiple pregnancy with IVF.
If FET sounds like the right path for you, Doctor Inna Berin has this to say on how to increase your chances of success. “Things like stress reduction (via meditation, talking with a therapist, acupuncture) are always best. In addition, specifically doing acupuncture before and after the embryo transfer may have some specific benefits in improving implantation and pregnancy rates.”
Circle + Bloom offers audio mind+body program to help women with Frozen Embryo Transfer – FET