Frozen (the non-Disney version)

I’m psyching myself up for my next FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) in August and, of course, have been frantically consulting my doc (and Dr Google) on the odds are and how to better them). Of course, the stock answer from the former is consistently “zilch”, but I thought I would share what I’ve found online on fresh vs frozen…

  1. Like Mum always says, focus on one thing at a time: Perhaps the biggest advantage of an FET is that your body can focus on a single task at hand. In a fresh cycle, you’ll already have strained your body by putting it into egg overdrive mode, and then suddenly have to become this calm, comfortable environment five days later. Instinct would suggest that pissed off, screaming ovaries may not make for happy neighbours. This is why some clinics just take a ‘freeze all’ approach. BUT given that a close friend had three embryos not survive the thaw, the prospect of that is bloody scary. God please keep my frostie safe.
  2. Less pain on the bank account: Where I am, fresh cycles are frightfully expensive. So are frozen ones, but less so. The medications cost marginally less, and there are fewer of them, and there isn’t the additional cost of retrieval. So there’s that.
  3. Less stress? I read somewhere that an FET, being less invasive, is gentler on the body, but – realistically – every cycle is always more stressful that the last. Heightened desperation, decreasing faith in your biology, and general displeasure with the universe aren’t the best combination. I find that acupuncture does help, as does exercise.
  4. Better implantation rates? Some studies have shown that implantation/live birth rates are better for frozen transfers (CDC’s data can be found here). Arguments include: FET mimics natural conception more closely, including hormonally, and the risk of OHSS is removed. But beyond that, my doc argues that any suggestion that success rates are higher is not always statistically sound. His take: In many situations, frozen success rates are calculated using a different baseline, since it includes only the women who responded well enough to stimulation to 1. produce eggs 2. have eggs that were good enough to become embryos 3. had enough embryos to freeze. Often, those women are younger and healthier, and already stand a better chance of getting pregnant. In some countries, those embryos are also screened. Fresh cycle rates usually include all women who do IVF.
  5. Healthier babies? This was recently in the news – the suggestion that FET babies had a higher birth weight.

Of course, any given embryo also has to be good enough, and the lining needs to be receptive. And then it’s all up to nature/magic/uncontrollable unseen forces that decide on your fate (and bank balance).

What makes me especially nervous is that the only sniff I have had at success has been with fresh – not frozen – cycles. The one FET we did (in August last year) didn’t work.

But every cycle is different I guess. I remain hopeful that this time, I will join the ranks of women who have given birth to the over 8 million IVF babies born in the 40 years since Louise Brown, the world’s first ‘test tube baby’, was born on 25 July 1978.

As an aside, I wonder how media around the world will mark the four-decade milestone of this scientific miracle. And where I can hide while they do it.

Song of the day:


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