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Frozen Embryos: More to It Than Just Freezing . . .


a blog by Marie Lee

When I was doing research for my novel (about an OB-GYN, coincidentally), I rotated with a bunch of med students around every department at our local women’s hospital, including the reproductive clinic. When I once asked a nurse what they do with the leftover embryos, she kind of smirked and said “throw them away.” When I asked what that meant, she said they are often thawed and poured down the drain, possibly even (eek!) flushed — not even the dignity of being disposed of as medical waste.

One expert estimated that 400,000 embryos are flushed yearly.

There are different views of when life begins. Some people think at conception. Others think a fertilized egg is just a glob of tissue. There’s lots of gray area, too. If you are a life-begins-at-conception type, then you’d better not take the birth control pill (which may work by making the uterus inhospitable to the fertilized egg). And if you view artificially created embryos as an individual human life, you might want to think about what you’re going to do if you’ve created a few too many of them BEFORE you make them.

Most couples undergoing IVF want to maximize their chances by creating a lot of embryos … but like the Russian proverb says, “Measure twice, cut once.”

Once you make ‘em, you can’t take them back . . .

Here’s an article from the New York Times with some real life patients facing this dilemma:

Parents Torn Over Fate of Frozen Embryos

By DENISE GRADY, December 4, 2008

For nearly 15 years, Kim and Walt Best have been paying about $200 a year to keep nine embryos stored in a freezer at a fertility clinic at Duke University — embryos that they no longer need, because they are finished having children but that Ms. Best cannot bear to destroy, donate for research or give away to another couple.

The embryos were created by in vitro fertilization, which gave the Bests a set of twins, now 14 years old.

Although the couple, who live in Brentwood, Tenn., have known for years that they wanted no more children, deciding what to do with the extra embryos has been a dilemma. He would have them discarded; she cannot.

“There is no easy answer,” said Ms. Best, a nurse. “I can’t look at my twins and not wonder sometimes what the other nine would be like…”

A new survey of 1,020 fertility patients at nine clinics reveals more than a little discontent with the most common options offered by the clinics. The survey, in which Ms. Best took part, is being published on Thursday in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Read more here:

Food for thought for all of us in the TTC process . . . Please feel free to share your thoughts below.


(You can also catch up with me on my independent Green Fertility blog.)

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