Embryo Quality: Does It Really Matter?

There are a variety of methods used by medical professionals to grade frozen human embryos, to project the likelihood of pregnancy success. This often includes Preimplantation Genetic Diagnostic (PGD) and Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) testing.

However, research has shown that these tests are not always accurate. Even lower quality embryos, when thawed and transferred, may result in healthy babies just as higher quality embryos do.

According to World Magazine, “Over the last few years, a handful of physicians in the United States and Europe have reported that embryos deemed abnormal by early tests could still grow into normal pregnancies—and they have the healthy babies to prove it. That means physicians have thrown away perhaps tens of thousands of embryos deemed abnormal that could have been healthy.”

One Snowflakes family knows this first hand. This family adopted six embryos and chose to thaw all of them. Four embryos survived the thaw and two embryos were transferred. The remaining two embryos were re-frozen, but were deemed by the medical staff as “incompatible with life.” Unfortunately, the family’s first frozen embryo transfer did not result in a pregnancy. Against the advice of the doctor, the family chose to thaw and transfer the remaining embryos, believing all embryos deserve a chance at life, not just the “good quality” embryos. The family ended up pregnant with twins from those embryos!

There are many embryos in frozen storage at this time who are not being used for family building purposes because they are deemed “low quality” or “poor quality.” Though these embryos could result in perfectly healthy children!

To hear more personal stories from families who took the chance of life with lower quality embryos, you can watch our webinar Personal Stories: Snowflakes Beating the Odds.

To learn more about embryo adoption and donation, visit Snowflakes.org.

Is Egg Freezing the Only Solution?

Egg freezing may be used to preserve future fertility for women. Mature oocytes (eggs) are harvested from a woman’s ovaries, flash-frozen (vitrified), stored, and are later thawed to create embryos using in vitro fertilization Recently, we came across a very informative video series in which a 29 year old woman records her egg freezing experience.

It has only been recently that researchers have become more confident in successfully freezing human eggs. More women are considering it for a number of reasons:

  1. Cancer or other medical treatments: Certain medical treatments — such as radiation or chemotherapy — can harm egg numbers and quality. Egg freezing allows women to potentially have biological children in the future.
  2. IVF: After an egg retrieval cycle, some of the eggs may be fertilized for a current pregnancy attempt and other eggs may be stored for future pregnancy attempts. Embryos are created on an as-needed basis.
  3. Fertility Preservation: A woman may choose to freeze her eggs when she is young, unmarried, and just beginning her career. Then when she is ready to begin having children, eggs will be thawed, fertilized, and transferred.

The last reason is becoming more popular. One of the most important factors in successful egg freezing is the age of the woman. Egg quality declines as women age, so the earlier they are frozen, the more likely the eggs will survive the freezing and thawing process.

But is the process, expense, time, and risk involved worth it?

Egg freezing is costly, both financially and emotionally. Each egg retrieval cycle takes several months and some women may have to complete more than one retrieval in order to secure enough eggs for future use. The procedure to harvest eggs from the ovaries costs about $10,000, which does not include the cost of the medication and hormone injections the woman has to take for several weeks to stimulate her ovaries. After the embryos are frozen, there is an annual storage bill, averaging $600.00 a year. And when the eggs are thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus through an IVF cycle, the cost ranges from $5,000 – $12,000.

Of course, there is no guarantee a woman will be able to have genetic children in the future if they freeze eggs now.

Are there other options?

Yes! There is another successful option for achieving a pregnancy in the future without incurring the expense of egg freezing. It is called embryo adoption. Embryos that have already been created IVF cycles are made available to for adoption. The adopting family uses the embryos to achieve a pregnancy and give birth. There is no expense for egg retrieval. No painful procedures. It’s affordable. It’s proven successful.

Anyone considering freezing their eggs should be aware of this option for future pregnancies. To learn more about embryo adoption, visit www.Snowflakes.org.

Protecting Your Baby From Birth Defects Through Nutrition

Women who are interested in embryo adoption are clearly interested in becoming pregnant and carrying a healthy child to term.  Did you know there is something you can begin NOW that will help protect your growing child in utero?

Take folic acid.

Jennifer Hofmeister, a Physician’s Assistant in Loveland, CO recently submitted an editorial on this subject.  Jennifer tells us:

“I want to make sure that all women in Northern Colorado who can become pregnant know about a simple way to improve their health to prevent brain and spine birth defects, such as spina bifida.

Spina bifida is the most common neural tube birth defect in the United States affecting 1,500 to 2,000 babies every year. Spina bifida is characterized by the incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord and/or meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord). While children can lead active lives with spina bifida, it is a serious birth defect that can result in severe physical disabilities, and there is no cure for the disorder.

Women can lower the risk of spina bifida in their future children by simply taking one pill a day: folic acid. Studies have shown that adding folic acid to a woman’s diet significantly reduces the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect, especially if women start taking the supplement before they become pregnant.

Birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the first weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. If a woman doesn’t begin taking folic acid until the start of her pregnancy, it leaves a short window for her and her baby to benefit from the supplement. Even if a woman is not planning to become pregnant soon it’s best to plan ahead and start taking folic acid today.

The easiest way for women to incorporate folic acid into their diet is by taking a supplement every day. Folic acid is available as an individual supplement or as part of a multivitamin. Always check the label to make sure it contains the recommended 400 micrograms of the supplement.

Folic acid can also be found in foods such as enriched breads, pastas and cereals. For the last decade, the FDA has required that manufacturers fortify these foods with folic acid. In addition to supplements and fortified foods, women can also eat a diet rich in folate which can be found naturally in beans, peas, lentils, oranges, asparagus, broccoli and dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale.

Even women who are not planning to become pregnant can benefit from getting enough folic acid every day. Our bodies make new cells every day — blood, skin, hair, nails and more. Folic acid is an important part of making these new cells. Deciding to start taking folic acid is one of the easiest healthy habits women can start today.”

So ladies, start your folic acid regiment today to protect the baby you adopt through embryo adoption tomorrow!

Learn more about embryo adoption at www.EmbryoAdoption.org.

Part 2: Salem Family Answers Common Embryo Adoption Questions

It’s January 2015, and for Adéye Salem, that means she’s less than a month away from the frozen embryo transfer that she and her husband have been preparing months for.

Adéye recently braved the cold weather and made another video to answer your questions about embryo adoption. In this video, she answers questions about their decision to adopt embryos through open adoption, as well as what their plans are if no babies are born from the process.

Check out the video below:

Learn more about Salem Family’s journey and the challenges that they’ve faced on the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center’s blog!

Part 1: Salem Family Answers Common Embryo Adoption Questions

Adeye and AnthonyAnthony and Adéye Salem are working on a series of videos to answer your questions about embryo adoption. In the first video, they answer questions about:
Age – Are they too old for embryo adoption?
Success Rate – Why did they choose embryos that have a 20-30% chance at life?
Family Size – How they manage life with nine children, and how will they do it with even more children?
Medication – What kinds of medication will Adéye have to take leading up to the FET?

See the full video and watch for their shout out to Snowflakes®:

As their mid-January Frozen Embryo Transfer nears, the couple will release more videos to answer your questions. Visit Adéye’s blog and leave questions in the comments for their upcoming videos!