A frozen embryo transfer, or FET, is a kind of IVF treatment where a cryopreserved embryo created in a full IVF cycle is thawed and transferred to a woman’s uterus.
Most of the time, a frozen embryo transfer takes place when there are “extra” embryos after a conventional IVF cycle. Initially a “fresh” embryo transfer was preferred. However, some doctors are recommending elective frozen embryo transfer—also referred to as a “freeze all” approach—where a fresh transfer is not attempted. In this case, all embryos are cryopreserved and transferred in a FET cycle in the next month or so. At Indo Nippon IVF, we strongly believe in the “Freeze All “ approach thanks to our excellent Embryo Freezing Program, led by Goral Gandhi, Laboratory and Scientific Director, Indo Nippon IVF. Goral Gandhi is a pioneer in the field of eggs and embryo freezing in India and has trained over 500 doctors and embryologists in this technique.
You may choose to have a FET-IVF cycle due to the following conditions and circumstances.
1. You Have Cryopreserved Embryos After a Fresh IVF Transfer Fails
During IVF treatment, one or several embryos may result. It is only safe, however, to transfer one or a couple at a time. Most people choose to freeze or cryopreserve their extra embryos.
Let’s say that one embryo transferred doesn’t result in a successful pregnancy. In this case, you have two options: You can do another fresh, full IVF cycle, or you can transfer one or two of your previously cryopreserved embryos. The most cost-effective option would be to transfer one of your previously frozen embryos. This is what many couples will choose to do.
2. You Want to Give Your IVF-Conceived Child a Sibling
Cryopreserved embryos can remain on ice indefinitely. In the future, you may decide to do a FET-IVF cycle to give your child a sibling. Your other option would be to do another fresh cycle and not use your cryopreserved embryos, but as previously mentioned, this is a more expensive route.
3. The Embryos Are Being Genetically Screened
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) are assisted reproductive technologies that allow embryos to be screened for specific genetic disease or defects. This is done by biopsy of the embryo on day three or five post-fertilization, post egg retrieval. After the biopsy, the embryos are cryopreserved till the genetic results are available.
4. You’re at High Risk of Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome in Fresh Embryo Transfer
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a risk of fertility drugs that can in severe (but rare) cases lead to loss of fertility and even death. If your risk of OHSS appears high before a fresh embryo transfer can take place, it may be cancelled and all embryos cryopreserved. This is because pregnancy can exasperate OHSS. It may also take longer to recover from OHSS if you’re pregnant. Once you’ve recovered from OHSS, a frozen embryo transfer cycle can be scheduled.
5. You’re Using an Embryo Donor
Some couples choose to donate their unused embryos to another infertile couple. If you decide to use an embryo donor, your cycle will be a frozen embryo transfer.
FET-IVF Procedure: What to Expect
There are two basic kinds of FET-IVF cycles: hormonal support cycles and “natural” cycles. The most commonly performed FET-IVF cycle is a hormonally supported cycle. This is because the day of transfer is easier to control (making it easier for the fertility clinic and lab), and because hormonal support is needed if there are female ovulatory problems.
Risks of FET-IVF
A frozen embryo transfer cycle has significantly fewer risks than a full IVF cycle. One of the primary risks to IVF (and fertility drugs) is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). However, you don’t need to worry about OHSS in a FET cycle since ovarian stimulating drugs aren’t used.
Depending on how many embryos are transferred, there is a risk of multiple pregnancy. Even twin pregnancies come with an increased risk to the mother and babies. Embryo transfer comes with a slightly increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. There is also a very small risk of infection.
With cryopreservation, some embryos may not survive the freeze and thaw process. With elective frozen embryo transfer, this means you may lose embryos that would have been available if you had done a fresh transfer.
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