Assisted Reproduction Techniques (ART) have always amused and enhanced the expectations of millions of couples struggling to have children. One such advanced ART technique is Embryo freezing, where the embryos are stored in a frozen state. It was in the year 1980 when the first successful pregnancy was accomplished through frozen embryo transfer (FET) after which many couples have accomplished their dream of parenthood through FET.
While the cost of embryo freezing differs in various aspects, it is important to note here that the embryo freezing cost in India is mentioned as a procedure cost and in addition, the cost for preserving is calculated on a yearly or half-yearly basis.
In a normal IVF cycle, the ovaries of a woman are stimulated for the retrieval of eggs that are fused with sperm to produce embryos. These embryos can be transferred fresh into the women’s uterus and/or can be frozen for future use. Embryo freezing works on the principle called cryopreservation that utilizes the ability of live cells, tissues, etc to freeze at sub-zero temperature and store for a long duration.
Table of Contents
Feel free to skip ahead if one topic catches your eye:
- What exactly is Embryo freezing?
- The frozen embryo transfer cycle
- Who can opt for Embryo freezing?
- Benefits and side-effects of Embryo freezing?
- Embryo freezing cost in India
What exactly is Embryo freezing?
The biological definition of an embryo is the cell that divides from the time of fertilization till the 8th week of pregnancy. As the name suggests freezing of embryos and preserving them for future use is called embryo freezing. This technique of ART revolves around the principle of cryopreservation. Live cells, tissue cultures, organs are also stored using this principle; where the water content within them is allowed to freeze at sub-zero temperature.
This halts the activities and functioning of the cells and resumes only when thawed before use. In Embryo freezing, the water content in the embryos is replaced with a protective liquid called cryoprotectant that enables cooling without damaging the DNA element of the cell. There are two major techniques of freezing embryos. Namely;
- Slow freezing: In this method, the embryos are sealed in tubes and the temperature is lowered slowly. Slow freezing involves special freezing machinery that can cool the embryos in stages. This method though a slow process can prevent the cell from aging. A cryoprotectant is added to the frozen embryos and later these are stored in liquid nitrogen.
- Vitrification: This method of embryo freezing uses a cryoprotectant and a flash-freezing technique. It is seen that slow freezing can increase the formation of ice crystals that can damage the embryos. Vitrification can protect the embryos from damage and improve the embryo’s survival rate. This is done by immersing the embryos first in a highly concentrated antifreeze fluid or cryoprotectant and then in liquid nitrogen.
Irrespective of the freezing technique, in embryo freezing, the embryos need to be maintained at -321 degrees Fahrenheit in liquid nitrogen until removed for use.
The Frozen Embryo transfer cycle
Embryo freezing can be used in both In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) cycle. In either of the treatments, the following protocols are followed.
- The ovaries are stimulated using fertility drugs to produce adequate eggs.
- The eggs are retrieved from the mature follicles from the ovaries through a small surgical procedure that requires the insertion of a needle into the vagina.
- The sperms too are retrieved either via natural ejaculation or through surgical aspiration.
- The eggs and sperms obtained are mixed in a petri dish and allowed to fertilize. In the case of ICSI, the sperm is directly injected into the egg.
- After the fertilization process, the embryo starts to develop. The embryo is allowed to develop for the next 5 to 6 days.
- The 6-8 celled developed embryo is frozen using either a slow freezing or vitrification process and preserved in liquid nitrogen.
Here, the embryologists ensure the necessary freezing procedures and preservation parameters are maintained ensuring precise freezing of embryos.
- Before usage, the embryos are warmed and rehydrated using a special solution in which the embryo’s biological activities are restored.
- During FET, the thawed (warmed) embryos are transferred into the reproductive tract of a woman for further embryo development.
Benefits of Embryo freezing
The advantages of freezing embryos can be summarized as below:
- One who is going to undergo treatment for cancer or any other condition can opt for embryo freezing.
- One who has certain medical or genetic conditions can choose to freeze embryos for later use.
- Women having Ovarian Hyper Stimulation (OHSS) can have a frozen embryo transfer once the symptoms of OHSS recedes.
- Sometimes, when the uterine lining is not thick enough for implantation, embryos can be frozen for transfer; once the uterus becomes receptive.
- Couples considering fresh embryo transfer can opt for freezing the embryos for consequent cycles/future use.
- Couples who want to have children later can also freeze the embryos now and use them later by considering the “freeze all” cycle of IVF.
- Preimplantation genetic screening/Diagnosis (PGS/PGD) requires the use of frozen embryos for testing.
- Transfer of frozen embryos reduces the chances of multiple conceiving where only one single viable embryo can be selected for transfer with this method.
- The added benefit of freezing embryos is that embryos can be stored for more than 10 years.
Success rates of Frozen Embryo Transfer
While we understand the cost of embryo freezing in India, it is essential to know the FET success rate. Generally, vitrification techniques are more preferred to slow freezing because vitrification or flash-freezing of embryos can help minimize embryo tissue damages and ice crystal formations. Scientific findings show that the embryo survival rate after thawing of vitrified embryos is more than 95%. The pregnancy rate, as well as live birth rates, are considerably higher than slow freezing.
Studies have also shown that the use of FET has reduced miscarriages and ectopic pregnancy complications. The birth weight of babies with FET is high compared to that of fresh embryo transfer.
Embryo freezing cost in India
With the advancements in technologies of ART, the techniques have been improvised that can affect the cost significantly. The embryo labs have been set up to mimic the conditions prevailing within the women’s womb. The preserving methodologies need to be precise with continuous monitoring of embryos. The embryo freezing cost in India also depends on the type of freezing technique and the fertilization procedure (IVF or ICSI)
Keeping all the aspects in mind, the embryo freezing charges in India involve two types of costs. One is the cost for retrieval of gametes and freezing of embryos which ranges from INR 50,000 to 1,00,000 (freezing charges are added to the IVF cost). The second is the cost of preserving or storing the embryos. This includes the maintenance charges and additional costs if any which are calculated yearly. This yearly cost of embryo freezing varies from 15,000 to 30,000 annually.
If the embryos are stored and used for the subsequent IVF/ICSI cycles, the cost of the next IVF/ICSI cycle will be reduced (retrieval of gametes and fertilization costs are not included).
Embryo freezing is a safe technique that can be considered in numerous situations. Like any other ART procedure, the cost can be the deciding factor for many. The various options and split in the embryo freezing charges in India can help the couple while they select this cryopreservation technique.
If you are looking for an embryo freezing centre in Delhi and Gurgaon, connect with a network of fertility centres through IVF Junction. Our fertility centres offer state-of-the-art embryology labs with the most scientific cryopreservation techniques.
The IVF Junction website provides options such as an IVF Cost calculator and EMI calculator where you can calculate the embryo freezing cost along with other IVF/ICSI charges in advance for better financial planning.