Author: John David Gordon, MD
From time to time I will take one of the FAQs from our new website and use this blog to discuss the question in more depth…this is one of those times…so here we go…
Patients considering IVF often ask me how many eggs do I think that they will get and how many should they fertilize. Those are excellent questions and I believe that all patients need to carefully consider what to do before jumping onto the fertility treatment treadmill…
In the world of IVF we are facing an ever increasing crisis caused by our inability to address the huge number of frozen embryos being created by fertility clinics. In our efforts to help patients we are contributing to the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the very patients that we are so desperate to help.
This issue was one of the reasons that ultimately led me to make the big move from Washington DC to Knoxville. There is no way that we are ever going to be able to get ahead of this problem if we don’t address the decision making process that has led to the fertilization of so many eggs in the first place. It is hard to get patients to consider the possibility that having extra embryos could ever be a bad thing and yet time and time again during my 23 years of treating infertility I have seen patients agonize over what to do with their extra embryos.
The difficulty in making a disposition decision is not limited to patients who are religious or Christian or conservative. Once patients have a child following IVF their perspective on how they regard these extra embryos that are stored in liquid nitrogen tanks at their fertility clinic often shifts dramatically. These embryos are no longer nondescript clumps of cells…They are something more. They are something special. They are something unique.
At Southeastern Fertility we carefully discuss with our patients how many eggs to fertilize before the IVF process even starts. We offer both Natural Cycle IVF and Mini-Stim IVF as options to avoid the temptation of fertilizing too many eggs. In our Stimulated IVF Program we limit the number of eggs fertilized but are happy to freeze the extra unfertilized eggs for future use. If clinics fail to counsel patients appropriately then the problem will only get worse. A recent segment on the Today Show (and another featuring yours truly on local TV) highlighted this very issue and suggested that if we do not take steps to address this issue, then it is only a matter of time before the government decides to address it for us.
FAQ 24. How many eggs should I fertilize?
Our recommendation to all patients is that they consider fertilizing only as many eggs as embryos that they are willing to transfer either now or in a future FET cycle. Since we are very comfortable with freezing unfertilized eggs we recommend that patients carefully consider this decision so as to avoid the difficulties inherent in deciding what to do with frozen embryos once a couple no longer wishes to use them to have additional children. Although the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) has matched thousands of donated embryos with recipients, there are estimated to be over 1 million frozen embryos stored in IVF clinics across the United States. At Southeastern Fertility we are committed to helping resolve the problem inherent in storing these embryos indefinitely by avoiding the creation of too many surplus embryos.