In-Vitro Fertilization, often known as IVF treatment, is a method of treating infertility in which the eggs of a woman and sperms from her husband are collected outside the body. These are then fertilized in the IVF lab by advanced machines where one mature sperm is injected inside one healthy egg to create an embryo.
The embryo is kept safe and grown in the incubator to provide an environment similar to that of a mother’s womb, 3-5 days later the embryo is transferred into the mother’s womb which is called the uterus, where it attaches to the walls and leads to a healthy baby after 9 months. This whole process of transfer of one or two healthy embryos inside a woman’s uterus is called the IVF Embryo Transfer procedure. It is one of the most important parts of ART techniques (Assisted Reproductive Technology).
Types of Embryo Transfers
There are mainly two types of embryo transfer procedures.
1. Fresh Embryo Transfer
In this type of embryo transfer procedure, the IVF-fertilized eggs are incubated for three to five days, and the best quality embryos are chosen and transferred into the uterus. A transfer of one or two viable embryos is excellent and preferred for a mother who is under the age of 40 years.
2. Frozen Embryo Transfer
The extra healthy embryos that develop after fertilization can be frozen and retained for later use, if they are not utilized during the IVF cycle. If the first IVF cycle is successful the frozen embryo can be used for a subsequent pregnancy and if the IVF cycle is unsuccessful, the frozen embryos can be used for the second baby. There are some women who are super-responders like women with PCOS in whom there is a hormonal imbalance hence the chances of implantation are lower in the fresh cycle and there are chances of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS) which is a dangerous condition, hence we prefer a frozen embryo transfer to avoid such situations.
How Many Embryos Should Be Transferred in an IVF Procedure?
Many of the lab and medical procedures that were employed with IVF in the beginning were still very new and in their infancy. Consequently, there was a minimal likelihood of pregnancy per transplanted embryo. For better chances of pregnancy, several facilities would routinely transfer numerous (2, 3, or even 4 embryos) at a time. However, this method frequently led to multiple pregnancies, which had a far higher likelihood of pregnancy complications, such as premature birth, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension etc.
In recent years, IVF-related technology has progressed significantly. Not just fresh embryo transfers but cryopreservation (freezing) of embryos has shown significant increased results. The chance of implantation and pregnancy per embryo has increased. Hence only one or two embryos should be used to achieve a healthy pregnancy.
The extra ones are kept safe by cryopreservation for future pregnancies or for subsequent IVF cycles if the first cycle fails for any reason. Thus, chances of triplet and quadruplet pregnancies have significantly reduced. The likelihood of conceiving twins with an IVF transfer, however, has remained high since the transmission of two embryos is still a popular technique.
Benefits and Risks of IVF Embryo Transfer?
The final step and most important part of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique is the embryo transfer procedure. IVF Embryo transfer involves the transfer of embryos in a woman’s uterus the IVF operation theatre in an aseptic environment by using a specialized catheter which is like a thin plastic tube. It is a painless procedure done without any anesthesia. Frozen or fresh embryos can be utilized in the in-vitro fertilization process. Is one process preferable to the other? Let’s check out the pros and cons of each procedure.
1. Pros and Cons of Fresh Embryo Transfers
After ovarian stimulation the eggs are collected, and an embryo is formed after injecting one sperm inside one egg. After 3-5 days of incubating the embryo, the fresh embryo transfer is done.
— A fresh embryo transfer has the significant benefit of speeding up the pregnancy process in case the process has been successful.
— Some drawbacks include the risk of a less responsive uterine lining for embryo implantation and increased hormone levels during ovarian stimulation. At times, the elevated estrogen levels may prevent the uterus from being receptive to a fresh embryo transfer.
2. Pros and Cons of Frozen Embryo Transfers or FETs
Since frozen embryos are thawed before being transferred, the phrase “frozen embryo transfer” is rather misleading. Embryos that were frozen for a subsequent IVF cycle had already undergone in vitro fertilization. So, let’s now come straight to the plus and minuses of the process.
— Prevents the chances of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS) from occurring. After the egg retrieval and embryo transfer, certain women may be at risk of developing OHSS. Although OHSS symptoms are often modest, they can result in serious complications as well. Frozen embryo transfers enable fertility specialists to prevent the hormonal imbalance leading to OHSS, considerably lowering the risk of OHSS.
–Increases the chances of endometrium’s (uterine lining) susceptibility to implant the embryo. An FET allows a woman’s body time to recover from the artificial environment created by the extrinsic hormones given for egg stimulation and harvesting (ovum pick up). This makes the endometrial lining of the womb more favorable for a successful implantation.
–In couples suffering from any genetic diseases or who have a family history of genetic diseases, the embryo biopsy is taken, and it allows for genetic testing to be performed on these embryos while they are kept safe after freezing till the genetic analysis for hereditary conditions is done.
— The potential that some embryos won’t survive the freezing/thawing procedure is a drawback of frozen embryo transfers. The risk is only modest, though, because frozen embryos have life expectancies that are greater than 95%. Additionally, the newer cutting-edge technology of vitrification to instantaneously freeze all embryos is better to preserve delicate embryos without causing damage.
The Embryo Transfer Procedure
Since embryo transfer procedure is a straightforward and a painless, sedation or anesthesia is seldom used.
In IVF, mature eggs are collected from ovaries and fertilized in the IVF laboratory with a healthy sperm. The fertilized embryos are then transferred to the woman’s uterus.
The healthy embryo or embryos are transferred into the uterus through the cervix using a long, thin catheter that is loaded with embryos and a tiny amount of fluid.
IVF cycles are completed in roughly two to three weeks.
What is an Embryo Transfer Success Rate?
Women under the age of 35 have a 70-80% success rate per embryo transfer, compared to women over 40 who have a 50-60% success rate per embryo transfer. When you decide it’s time for a frozen embryo transfer, it’s crucial to get your uterus ready for implantation with the right medications and the correct lifestyle choices. It also depends on the quality of the embryo that is formed. In general, on average, the embryo transfer success rate ranges between 50-80% per cycle.
What is an Embryo Transfer Cost?
There is no separate embryo transfer cost as it is a part of the IVF cycle/procedure. The entire process is charged as one entity, right from stimulation of the ovaries: removal of eggs from the ovaries, fertilization of the same with sperms in the lab as well as the final stage of embryo transfers. The entire cost is about Rs 75,000 per cycle as in year 2022. There is an additional cost of Rs 30,000 in cases where embryos are frozen under cryopreservation to be transferred later in life, when desired by the woman/couple.
The final fact is that in the weeks after your embryo transfer, you are essentially playing a waiting game. While following the dos and don’ts list is a good idea, you should also establish healthy habits that you can keep up throughout your pregnancy.
So, call our IVF experts today and schedule a consultation with our ace fertility doctors. And you might be happy mother/parents soon!