What is Embryo Banking?

Egg/embryo banking offers a potential solution for older women and those with DOR who wish to minimize the relentless effect of the biological clock. The process involves undergoing several IVF stimulation/egg retrieval procedures in relatively quick succession, and then freezing/banking all viable embryos for future dispensation, rather than having them transferred to the uterus immediately. Such embryo “stockpiling” can virtually stop the “biological clock” in its tracks, allowing for the subsequent elective thawing of one or two frozen embryos at a time in future frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycles. This process would avert the risk of progressive declining egg/embryo “competency” over time.

The concept of embryo banking/stockpiling would not have been feasible even 5 years ago, since it was not until quite recently that we became able to reliably identify chromosomally normal (“competent”) embryos for selective banking. Embryo freezing technology has also evolved dramatically over that time. Just a few years ago, the freezing process took a serious toll on embryos, severely damaging up to 50% of them in the freeze/thaw process. But that was then and today, through the adaptation of comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) technology to egg and/or embryo selection we are able to much better identify “competent” embryos for banking and stockpiling.

In addition, the recent introduction of much improved egg/embryo freezing through ultra-rapid cryopreservation (vitrification) eliminates most of the potential damage incurred to competent embryos during the freezing and thawing process. In fact, in IVF centers of excellence, the frozen embryo transfer (FET) process using vitrified/thawed embryos now yields the same IVF success rate as when fresh embryos are transferred!

These innovations (CGH and Vitrification) have not only made embryo banking/stockpiling feasible, but have rendered the approach a most appealing option for older women and women with DOR who seek to undergo IVF using their own eggs. This having been said, CGH is NOT an indispensable part of embryo banking. The process can be done without it. But, given the inevitability of an age-related increase in the incidence of chromosomal abnormalities in the egg/embryo, it would be impossible for patients to know whether they have stored “competent” embryos and which ones to transfer to the uterus for the best chance of success when the time comes.

Contact your nearest SIRM office to find out about egg/embryo banking options.