Frozen Embryos Aren't Always Necessary for IVF, New Studies Show

A human embryo in the early stages of fertilization

While women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a better chance of pregnancy and live birth in using frozen then thawed embryos for implantation, women without PCOS have nearly equally effective results when using either frozen or fresh embryos, Reuters reports.

It was the Chen group that, in 2016, reported that frozen-then-thawed embryos offered a 7-percentage-point edge when it came to producing live births among infertile women with polycystic ovary syndrome: 49 percent versus 42 percent.

"Previous research has shown that women who experience infertility because of PCOS benefit from significantly higher live birth rates from frozen embryos in IVF procedures, but evidence was lacking for this approach in non-PCOS patients", the University of Adelaide's Ben Mol said in a media release on Thursday.

Coutifaris says that it's clear that frozen embryos are more effective for some women undergoing IVF, specifically women who have PCOS or who may be prone to hyperstimulation when they are treated with hormones.

Researchers found that women using frozen embryos had a live birth rate of 48.7%, versus a live birth rate of 50.2% for women in the fresh-embryo group.

"It's good that [clinicians] will be able to advise patients that frozen-embryo transfer is as good as fresh, because historically frozen has not been as good".

For their study, Chen and colleagues enrolled women at 20 clinical sites across China between March 2015 and November 2015.


The two studies involved almost 3,000 women undergoing IVF who were randomly assigned to receive either frozen or fresh embryos. All women had regular menses and were undergoing their first cycle of IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection because of tubal factors, male factors, or both. Doctors typically implanted two embryos per attempt. In the fresh embryo group, ongoing pregnancy occurred in 35% of the women and in the frozen embryo group, ongoing pregnancy occurred in 36%. There were also no significant differences between the groups in rates of implantation, clinical pregnancy, overall pregnancy loss, and ongoing pregnancy.

"Given the differences in the uterine condition and embryo characteristics between cleavage-stage embryo transfer and blastocyst transfer, our results may not be applicable to cycles with blastocyst transfer", they wrote.

"Further research will be needed to compare pregnancy outcomes and live birth rates from other embryo freezing techniques", he said.

The study investigated nearly 800 women who had infertility not related to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common health problem caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones that can lead to infertility. They also implanted, on average, two at a time.

The study by Chen et al was supported by grants from the National Key Research and Development Program of China, the Major Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the State Key Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

The study by Vuong et al was supported by My Duc Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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