One in six Australian couples will have a fertility issue at some point in their lives and one in 10 couples will have trouble conceiving their second child. You are not alone.
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The World Health Organisation predicts that infertility will be the third most serious health condition in the 21st Century
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There’s any number of reasons you might have ended up here. You might be wanting to hit pause on your biological clock, you may have received some bad news about your health or you might be wondering how we’re going to look after the extra precious embryos created in your IVF cycle.
Down the page a little we’ll figure out where you fit and provide you with some information on your options but first we want to tell you a little about the actual freezing technique and put to rest any concerns you might have about the safety of your precious eggs, sperm and embryos.
As part of our commitment to developing and using world leading fertility technology, Genea was the first clinic in Australia to develop and routinely replace the old slow freezing method for embryos and eggs with the more efficient and successful Vitrification process. The technology, which is similar to snap freezing, dramatically increased survival rates for thawed embryos. We’ve been using it routinely since February 2006 but some clinics still use the outdated slow freeze method.
Vitrification comes from the Latin word vitrum, meaning glass. What happens is that we put the eggs, sperm or embryos in a special solution called a vitrification medium and that solution is then cooled so quickly that the structure of the water molecules doesn’t have time to form ice crystals. Instead it instantaneously solidifies into a glass-like structure.
Vitrification for the preservation of domestic animal embryos was developed several years ago and Genea's research department recognised the potential of the technique and we spent a number of years developing a suitable protocol for human embryos. Unlike previous slow freeze methods, which took up to two hours to lower the embryo, eggs or sperm to the correct temperature, vitrification takes just a few minutes. The embryo is suspended in a very small volume of fluid on the end of a small flat specialised vitrification device. The device with the embryo is lowered onto a metal block that has been cooled by liquid nitrogen where the fluid containing the embryo hardens into a small glassy bead.
Genea's expertise in this area of fertility preservation is so great that our scientists have invented an instrument to automatically vitrify embryos - the first in the world.
Rigorous studies at Genea have shown that a greater percentage of the embryo's cells survive thawing following vitrification than after slow freezing. Live birth rates for 2006 following the transfer of vitrified embryos increased by 50 per cent over those where slow frozen embryos were transferred.
Vitrification is especially effective for freezing eggs compared to the old method. The egg is the largest cell in the body and contains a lot of water. The classic problem with freezing eggs the old way was that as the temperature dropped below freezing point, ice crystals formed inside the egg and caused damage to the genetic material.
As with embryos, the ultra rapid cooling technique of vitrification allows the water inside and surrounding the egg to instantaneously super cool into a solid state with no ice crystal formation at all.
So if you’ve started to hear the ticking of your biological clock but pregnancy and babies aren’t an option right now or if you’re facing a significant illness that might damage your fertility, give us a call to find out more about your options for freezing your eggs, sperm or embryos.
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While the concept of freezing your eggs if you’re single or not ready to have children gets a lot of media attention, egg freezing is an option worth considering for a number of reasons, including:
Sperm can be frozen (or banked) just like eggs and the reasons for considering this option are also similar:
You may also want to freeze sperm before you and your partner start assisted reproductive treatment as a backup just in case you are unable to attend due to travel or other commitments or if you have experienced difficulty collecting a sample.
At Genea, the success rate from frozen embryos is on par with fresh transfers. So freezing your embryos is an obvious option if you end up with extra healthy ones from your cycle. The benefit is you’ll need to go through less fresh cycles if you need future treatment and you’ll be using embryos created earlier - sometimes years younger which can make all the difference.
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