'Frozen embryos are as good as fresh ones for IVF births'

Fresh, Frozen Embryos Equal in IVF

Fresh, Frozen Embryos Equal in IVF

Secondary outcomes included rates of pregnancy complications (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, ectopic pregnancy, congenital anomaly), birth weight, rates of pregnancy loss, and comparisons of biochemical pregnancy and clinical pregnancy characteristics.

Ongoing pregnancy occurred in 36 percent of women in the frozen embryo group, compared to 35 percent of women in the fresh group.

"Among infertile women without the polycystic ovary syndrome who were undergoing IVF, the transfer of frozen embryos did not result in significantly higher rates of ongoing pregnancy or live birth than the transfer of fresh embryos", one of the studies concluded.

Freezing embryos also allows couples to take advantage of genetic testing, which can pick up potentially lethal genetic diseases and guide doctors in deciding which embryos to implant.

Mol warns that although many clinics are moving away from using fresh embryo transfers for IVF, the freezing process does make IVF more expensive, despite not resulting in higher rates of live births: "Couples concerned about such unnecessary costs of freezing all embryos do not need to go down that path, and will still have the same live birth success rate".

The two studies involved almost 3,000 women undergoing IVF who were randomly assigned to receive either frozen or fresh embryos.

Whereas in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), freezing and thawing embryos before implantation offers a better chance of pregnancy and birth, in women without this condition thawed embryos and are no better or worse than fresh embryos, researchers in China and Vietnam have found.

Michael Chapman, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UNSW and President of the Fertility Society of Australia - who was not involved in the study - said the slight percentage difference in groups is not significant.

"This new study shows that infertile women not suffering from PCOS have equivalent live IVF birth rates from frozen embryos, which is important news for infertile women worldwide", he said. The live birth rate among those with frozen embryos was 49%, compared to 50% among those with fresh embryos.

"There are many examples in medical history where people jump to innovation and new things, and then after a while it turns out that the new thing is not necessarily so much better", Mol said.

Yuhua Shi, M.D., Ph.D., from Shandong Provincial Hospital-Shandong University in Jinan, China, and colleagues randomized 2,157 ovulatory women with infertility who were undergoing their first IVF cycle to undergo fresh-embryo transfer or embryo cryopreservation followed by frozen-embryo transfer.

But until now, it was not known whether this was also the case for women confronted with fertility problems due to other reasons.

"It's not a lot, but it's a couple of hundred of dollars that you're talking about, so obviously that could be part of the choice [for patients]", he said. After the first fresh embryo transfer, it will be possible to freeze the remaining embryos and transfer them one by one, which is safe and effective. To the researchers' knowledge, this is the first time that a large clinical trial was conducted to evaluate this change of practice.

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