A different approach to a frozen egg bank puts patients first
Our friends in Seattle at Pacific NW Fertility & IVF Specialists have shared with us a lovely article they wrote regarding their thoughts on egg banking.
In medicine we don’t refer to the people we help as customers because they are our patients. But like customers, our patients inform us daily of what they need and give us a glimpse into the future of our specialty in medicine —infertility.
As our laboratory’s success rates for fresh donor egg cycles approached 80 percent with single and two embryo transfers we started hearing our patients voice their concern over what they would do with their remaining frozen embryos. The higher success rates with fewer embryos transferred meant the more embryos the patients would have cryopreserved after completing their family. Our patients told us about the burden of excess embryos and their ethical dilemma of what to do with them and we listened.
Our team started to talk about what we could do to limit the number of embryos created; finding the sweet spot of having enough embryos to get people what they wanted – most typically two children – but no more than they would utilize to achieve their family-building goal.
That is when our commitment to developing a frozen donor egg bank went into high gear. We knew that if our frozen program could match the success rates of our fresh program, that it would not only help alleviate this dilemma for our patients, but it would save money and time for them as well.
To that end we’ve been vitrifying, thawing, and fertilizing frozen oocytes (eggs) since 2009 and perfecting the process until the success rates using frozen eggs are virtually the same as our very successful donor egg program using fresh eggs.
Most clinics and brokers can’t make the same claim.
Across the country companies are selling frozen eggs in small batches to eager patients, but few have a successful program that can take those frozen eggs and make blastocysts that will lead to a successful pregnancy and live birth. Some have little data to demonstrate their success.
Pacific NW Fertility has taken a different path — a road less traveled, if you will. We aren’t sending frozen eggs all over the country. We feel that this model is not in patients’ best interest. We quietly have been developing the processes in the laboratory over the past 6 years and we can proudly say that as of January 1, 2015 we have had over 200 live births from frozen eggs at Pacific NW Fertility.
At the 80th Annual Meeting of Pacific Coast Obstetrics and Gynecologic Society in October 2013 we presented our study with the data that supported our hypothesis:
Warmed vitrified donor oocytes yield excellent survival, fertilization, implantation, and pregnancy rates that are comparable to nationally reported fresh success rates, and not significantly lower than matched fresh controls.
We followed 173 recipients using vitrified eggs from 66 different donors between 2010 and 2013. A total of 1,633 oocytes were warmed and 96 percent of the eggs survived the warming and were injected with sperm. Of the 1,564 surviving eggs, 88.6 percent fertilized and 48.9 percent developed to a blastocyst stage. A total of 308 embryos were transferred that led to live births in 58 percent of the transfers.
Our patients selected their egg donors in the same way they would have for a fresh transfer. The cost savings of this approach was passed onto the patients. Patients avoided long waiting times, reserving donors and waiting for donors to be free to cycle. And, most significantly, large numbers of embryos weren’t cryopreserved after a patient’s family building journey, our goal when this pursuit started.
Most eggs banks can’t accurately report their success rates and best practices using vitrified eggs in their bank. They have raced ahead of the science and the effort it requires to author protocols and fine tune best practices. Commercialism has become the focus for this part of assisted reproductive technology in the United States.
We didn’t feel comfortable with that approach. Instead, we watched the frozen egg market explode and kept focused, studying and perfecting our technique. And today that decision, to step out of what sometimes seems like a frenzy to sell eggs, has paid off.
We are proud to offer a frozen donor egg program to our patients that guarantees two healthy blastocysts, in lieu of shipping eggs all over the country. For us, it has been the right decision. Patients undergoing infertility treatment is stressful enough. To save them the stress of a facing the decision about what to do with many embryos at the end of treatment has been, for us, the right thing to do.
For more information you can google Pacific NW Fertility & IVF Specialists and