What you need to know written on a white boardFrozen embryo transfer (FET) has been making some headlines recently as a successful practice for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Frozen embryo transfer is when a previously frozen embryo is thawed for implantation through IVF. The embryo can be either the couple’s or adopted from another couple.

For couples that are trying to conceive, here are some facts you should know about this technique before your next IVF cycle.

Fact #1: FETs are more successful in some cases than fresh embryo transfers.
Sometimes the transfer of a frozen embryo is more successful than a fresh transfer because the woman’s uterus and reproductive system have had time to heal from the stimulation required for an IVF cycle. This can result in a thicker endometrium lining to foster a better environment for implantation. In addition, her hormones will be more balanced naturally, as there will be fewer fertility drugs involved.

Fact #2: FETs can reduce the risk of miscarriage for some patients.
Because FETs enjoy a higher successful implantation rate, their miscarriage rate is much lower. Fresh embryos can sometimes miscarry after implantation. In order to clear the failed pregnancy, clinicians sometimes have to perform a dilation and cutterage (D & C), which requires a healing period afterward. For couples where time is of the essence, an FET can help avoid that outcome.

Fact #3: More couples feel confident transferring one FET per cycle, eliminating the risk of multiples.
Everyone has heard about the risk of multiples during IVF. This is a result of transferring several embryos during an IVF cycle with the hopes that it will raise the chance of at least one successful implantation. Multiples result when more than one of these embryos attaches to the womb. Many couples feel since the transfer rate is more successful with FETs, they can limit the transfer to only one embryo, eliminating this risk.

Fact #4: Embryos can be transferred successfully, even after years of storage.
Due to improvements in the freezing and thawing process, embryos can be thawed with more success than ever before in assisted reproductive technology. But even embryos that were frozen years ago can result in viable pregnancies. According to a case published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, one woman in New York was able to transfer an embryo that had been frozen for 20 years. Many experts believe that embryos can be stored for 15 to 20 years.

Fact #5: As of 2010, experts estimate that there are over 400,000 frozen embryos in storage.
After completing a cycle of IVF, some couples have extra viable embryos that they freeze and store for future cycles. In many cases, they remain stored there with couples that have completed their families unsure of what to do with them. Many of these embryos are donated to science or thawed to expire without implantation. But some of these couples donate their embryos to other couples for adoption. This a great option for couples that are unable to create viable embryos of their own.

Frozen embryo transfers have several benefits for couples. From reduced risk of miscarriage to higher success rates to lowered risk of multiples, there are many facts that might make it the right option for your next round of IVF. Couples that are trying to conceive through IVF should consult with their doctor about whether frozen embryo transfer is the right option for them.

“Eleven Years Later, Triplet No. 3 Arrives.” Abcnews.go.com. Web. 28 December 2010. <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/eleven-years-triplet-arrives-frozen-embryo-batch/story?id=12492208 >

“PGD and Frozen Embryo Transfer: The New Standard for IVF?” www.fertilityauthority.com. Web. 6 May 2014. <http://www.fertilityauthority.com/articles/pgd-and-frozen-embryo-transfer-new-standard-ivf>