The progress was demonstrated at the Oxford Fertility Unit (OFU). Doctors there decided to put a whole new emphasis on the use of frozen embryos, which have about half the chance of fresh embryos of producing a pregnancy, and thus are seldom utilized in fertility clinics. When the researchers regularly offered women the opportunity to place their spare embryos in cold storage, and then used those embryos in cases in which fresh embryos didn’t produce a pregnancy, women’s chances of becoming pregnant increased by 50 percent.
The OFU study looked at pregnancy rates among 1,290 couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment at the clinic, which is at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Headington. The doctors noted that the OFU’s pregnancy rates were 40 percent for women under 39, and 31 percent for those 39 and over. But when suitable embryos from each woman were frozen and later used when necessary, pregnancy rates shot up to 59 percent and 49 percent respectively.
“The worst part of IVF for a couple is going through a fresh treatment with all the drugs, injections, costs and risk this entails,” said Tim Child, a fertility specialist at the clinic. “By looking at the success rate per egg collection, including the use of all spare frozen embryos created, we can clearly demonstrate the significant benefits for couples and clinics on focusing on running a good freezing program.”
Freezing can reduce expenses tremendously. Although it costs about $870 to freeze embryos and about $1,020 each time to use them, this compares with roughly $5,800 for an IVF cycle – and there’s no wastage of embryos. “By careful selection of spare embryos for freezing and later use,” Child said, “we are able to maximize the chances of success for a couple per expensive and potentially risky fresh IVF egg collection cycle.”