The topic of fresh or frozen embryo transfers often comes up as it is a popular belief that fresh embryo transfers are preferential to frozen embryo transfers. By no means am I speaking from a clinical perspective, but I find it a very interesting topic to discuss so thought I could give some general information about what’s going on in the world of fertility to investigate this at the moment.

 

In the UK, there is currently the E-Freeze study taking place across 12 hospitals that is looking into this very discussion point. The aim of this study is to determine if a policy of freezing embryos, followed by thawed embryo transfer, results in a higher healthy baby rate when compared with the current policy of transferring fresh embryos. Factors being looked at include ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), miscarriage rate, gestational diabetes and multiple pregnancies to name a few. The study started back in March 2015 and is due to finish in February next year. The study is also looking at emotional and economic factors in relation to the couples involved, to try and understand the different emotions that patients face undergoing a fresh or frozen transfer along with the difference to any costs incurred.

So what are the benefits of a frozen transfer? Well firstly the pregnancy rates are high which is of course good, there is also less risk of OHSS and low multiple birth rates. It also enables, if necessary, more investigations to take place but with no increase to a patient’s overall waiting time. Patients who have undergone frozen embryo transfer have also reported feeling reduced stress / anxiety and it allows hormone levels a chance to go back to normal and gives patients time to recover from egg collection. By utilising a frozen protocol, it also gives consultants and patients more flexibility, for example allowing a patient to work around their schedule. There are even some clinics who are now choosing to solely utilise frozen transfers due to these facts.

Are there any reasons not to do a frozen transfer? Well the studies that have been completed so far have been done abroad so they haven’t necessarily been working to the standard regulations we work to within in the UK (HFEA) so we do really need to wait for the E-Freeze study to be published. In rare cases, the embryos may not survive the thawing process leaving patients with less or no embryos to transfer (freeing techniques have vastly improved in recent years though and a lot higher percentage of embryos are now surviving the process).

Something to watch out for in the near future for sure!

Holly Scott, Patient and Clinic Liaison Manager

 

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