What Is Your Opinion on the Frozen Embryo Dilemma?

Frozen EmbryosInfertility often leads to fertility treatment.

 

Fertility treatment leads to stimulating ovaries to creating more eggs (ovum).

 

More successfully retrieved ovum can mean more embryos created. 

 

That's certainly the expectation, even the hope, with fertility treatment. 

 

Here's the next hope and expectation, we get pregnant. That happens a lot. That is the whole point of treatment. That is the best outcome, that a pregnancy has been created.

How Cryopreservation Works

Very often, there are extra embryos and almost always, they are frozen (cryopreserved). This is a method that suspends the growth and division of the embryo. Typically, a woman, prospective parent, or couple will decide that they would like a second and even third or fourth child and those embryos can then be thawed (removed from cryopreservation, warmed gradually and start to grow and divide again) and, with a high level of success, another successful pregnancy can occur. 

 

This is a scenario that happens all over the United States, as well as in many other countries all over the world.

 

I used the word dilemma in the title of today's blog.

 

Here's the dilemma. 

 

When family building is done, what do we do about the frozen embryos?

 

Why is it a dilemma?

 

For some people, it's not. I haven't met too many of those people in over 24 years of being in the field of infertility. 

 

Most of us struggle with what to do with what can be full genetic siblings to our children.

 

There are limited choices. As best I understand them, here they are: 

 

  1. Keep them frozen (there are costs associated with this, but there are cases of embryos frozen for over a decade or more)
  2. Allow them to thaw and discard them
  3. Donate them to another person experiencing infertiilty
  4. Donate them for scientific research

 

Those choices seem stark to me. Maybe it's because they are in a numbered list and the number four doesn't seem very high.

 

There really aren't a lot of choices. Four is not a lot of choices. Especially since, for most of us, the choices aren't all that great. Maybe I should say the choices aren't all that comfortable. 

 

Often, choice number one is used because it's a type of non-decision. It's literally freezing time until another decision is made. It's possible to keep embryos frozen forever if you're willing to pay the costs associated. But then what? Someone, at some time, will need to make a decision about what to do about the embryos.

 

That's the dilemma. 

 

What to do about the embryos.

 

It's a very personal choice. Let's start there.

Making Powerful Choices During Fertility Treatment

One of the problems is that while we're in the middle of fertility treatment, there are so many powerful things that we need to consider. Compromises, life changing decisions that we need to make. While the emphasis is on the pregnancy and the baby, what to do with extra embryos often becomes almost always an afterthought. It's not the point. And often, in the middle of fertility treatment, almost everything except becoming pregnant is not the point.

 

And then we become pregnant, maybe more than once. Our families are built. 

 

Hence the frozen embryo dilemma.

 

So, please, share with us. Anonymously if you like. 

 

What are your feelings about frozen embryos? 

 

What would you do?

 

What have you done?

 

What do you wish you had known to ask or consider or think about?

 

 

 

Topics: Embryo, Fertility Treatment, Freezing

Lisa Rosenthal

Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.

Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.

Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.

Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.

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