2014 is winding down and I really hope that everyone had a great year. I know that sometimes life has a way of throwing curve balls and those who are visiting this site probably know that fact quite well. Still, it is how we deal with the events in our lives that really affect who we are and how we feel. So if you are stressed out about life or are having a hard day I would encourage you to sit still for a few seconds and take a couple deep breaths. I guarantee you will feel better and more relaxed. Then the next time you are stressed out, try to remember how a simple thing like taking 30 seconds to breath can make you feel so much better (seriously, it’s science).
OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. What I really wanted to talk about today was an exciting new trend in the infertility world that will mean higher success rates for everyone going through IVF with their own eggs. I am talking about the end of fresh transfers (using your own eggs) as we know it. Recent evidence has shown that the medications women take to hyper-stimulate their ovaries in order to force their body to mature many more eggs than it would in a normal cycle can have a negative effect on implantation rates, and thus lower the chances for a successful pregnancy. Essentially the stimulation required for IVF is, in fact, bad for IVF success. (Now some of you might be thinking, “what about minimal stim IVF?” – That is a whole another topic for a different day.)
What this means is that an increasing number of fertility clinics across the country have switched from offering fresh cycles where your embryos are retrieved and subsequently transferred during the same cycle to a fresh/FET (frozen embryo transfer) model where your embryos will be retrieved and grown in the lab then frozen (vitrified, hopefully) and then transferred back the embryo(s) on another cycle in which you will receive no stimulation medications, just like any other FET cycle.
This trend is bolstered by recent advances in freezing technology/techniques. Now the industry standard is vitrification. Where the egg/embryo is frozen quickly and, most importantly, the thaw survival rate is in the 95-98% range. Compare that with slow freeze techniques of the past which boasted rates between 30-50% and it’s a game changer. Effectively, the embryos can be frozen and thawed again with little chance of something going awry.
Most importantly, these new treatments have increased the success rates for all patient populations using their own eggs as much as 10% across the board! That is a huge increase! Higher success rates mean less cycles will be required on aggregate to achieve pregnancy.
What this means to IVF costs is a higher cost to get to the transfer stage, but a reduced average cost per successful cycle, across the board. On a cycle by cycle basis there might be some cost increases, as the newer techniques require more work, but, on average, less cycles will be required. Resulting in lower total average costs. This is a good thing!
If you are looking at IVF clinics right now for treatment I would encourage you to ask about both the clinic’s use of vitrification in the lab, as well as if they offer this type of fresh/FET cycle (often referred to as Freeze-all cycles). If they don’t then you might want to think about another clinic – it could save you money.