Frozen Embryos—The Ins and Outs of Transporting Biological Material for the IVF Process
Freezing embryos has completely changed the process of fertilization forever.
Thanks to frozen embryos and the process of surrogacy, having a biological child for couples struggling with infertility is easier than ever and more successful.
While you may understand that you can freeze your embryos for later use, you may wonder if transporting your embryos is possible.
This article will discuss the need for transporting embryos, international surrogacy, and if it is possible to transport embryos.
The process of freezing embryos begins with an egg donor and a sperm donor.
At a fertility clinic near you, in-vitro fertilization is used to collect a series of eggs and sperm from both intended parents.
Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, it’s considered to be an embryo. A fresh embryo transfer occurs when that embryo is transplanted into a surrogate a few days later. A frozen embryo transfer occurs after the embryo is frozen for a duration of time.
There are many reasons why an intended couple might choose to freeze their embryo instead of immediately placing into their surrogate’s uterus via the process of IVF. The egg donor and sperm donor may simply not be ready just yet to become parents; but by freezing that embryo when they’re both young, the embryo will be healthy later when they do decide to use it. Eggs that are collected when intended mothers are older aren’t always the healthiest.
That can make the transfer and transplant into a surrogate more difficult. It may also mean that the embryo is more prone to development problems and birth defects.
Frozen embryos also hold an advantage in that they allow the surrogate to have an extended amount of time to prepare their bodies for pregnancy. Fertility clinics will give them medications to help boost their fertility and sync their ovulation cycle with the timing of when the embryo would form naturally.
With more time to prepare, the body will be more likely to accept the embryo into it.
Freezing your embryos can also help international intended parents find a surrogate in California or elsewhere. Infertility does not just strike women in America. It’s a global problem and a human problem. According to this article, over 50 million people across the world suffer from infertility.
International intended parents may not want to use surrogates in their own nation. They may wonder if it’s possible to transport their embryos for surrogacy in California or elsewhere.
The answer is yes if the embryos are frozen.
Reasons For International Surrogacy
There are many reasons why international couples might want to find a surrogate in California.
Perhaps their native country does not have as high of standards in health care as the United States do. Perhaps their native country doesn’t allow surrogates to be used- an incredible number of foreign nations do not support the practice of surrogacy. These couples are faced with not being able to have biological children of their own in their own native country.
In fact, countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Bulgaria prohibit surrogacy.
Couples who live in those countries are unable to use surrogate mothers in order to have a baby of their own. Their only other option is usually to adopt. Because of this, these couples try to find a surrogate in the United States to have their own biological children, and can also transport their embryos made in their own home country if they wish as well.
Another reason that international parents might want to utilize surrogacy in the United States is that it’s cheaper. Prices for their own surrogates in their native country may be outrageous. For families of humble means, they may be barred from having their own baby because of those costs. Hiring a surrogate in the US might be a cheaper option for them.
The biggest hurdle that international parents will face is transporting their embryos that were made in their respective countries.
In order for them to reach the United States successfully and undamaged, you need to freeze them.
For intended parents who live internationally and want to utilize surrogacy in California, for example, the biggest hurdle that you’ll need to jump is keeping your embryos frozen.
California isn’t the coolest of places, and for some countries, the trip is long to reach your desired fertility clinic in California. The typical process of embryo transport is via plane. Embryos and eggs from egg donation suppliers are frozen through two different processes—slow freezing and vitrification.
Most fertility clinics prefer to use vitrification because it is cheaper and more effective.
When housed in storage, embryos are stored in tanks that are surrounded by liquid nitrogen. Because planes do not allow liquid nitrogen to be on planes, some clinics get around this by using a retention foam in their shipping dewar. This foam absorbs some of the liquid nitrogen and keeps it in the sealed crate in vapor form. This does not break the regulation that planes have for liquid nitrogen.
The dewar shipping container can keep the freezing temperature needed for the embryos for several days. Sometimes it can even last for over a week. This is more than enough time needed for the embryos and eggs from egg donation to be transported to the necessary fertility clinic.
From there, the clinic quickly unloads them and places them in the safety of their own storage tanks.
With the embryos properly stored, the intended parents can then find a surrogate and begin the process.
Problems with Transport
The process of transporting embryos may be difficult if you live in the United Kingdom.
They have strict regulations on importing and exporting embryos. The UK’s regulations also tend to differ from country to country, and regulations will always differ depending on the country you are transporting from. One standard within the UK is that embryos can only be stored for 10 years.
If you’re thinking of moving to the UK or you live in the UK currently, you should be aware of this time limit.
You may want to move your embryo to a storage facility in the United States where there isn’t a time limit currently on how long you can store your embryos. Extensions are possible but you have to check with a fertility clinic to see if your embryo qualifies for the extension.
Finally, transporting through the UK can also be difficult.
Again, each country has different regulations and your embryo might not be able to pass through if they don’t follow the regulations.
It may be worth it to try and book a passage straight from your country to the United States without passing through other UK countries. Or, at the very least, limit how many stops and transfers the embryo goes through from country to country and plane to plane.
Otherwise, your embryo may be unable to make the next leg of its journey because of a broken regulation.
Of course, there can be issues shipping embryos, sperm, or donor eggs internationally.
But according to this article, it is generally safe and does not affect the quality of the results- see their graph.
Reasons for Transporting Embryos
Many intended parents run into various snags along their surrogacy journey.
These snags could include multiple issues with your selected fertility clinic (including communication issues or errors, a difference of opinion with the treatment from your Dr.) or surrogate mother issues with responding to medications and the list goes on. These reasons may contribute to the want of an intended parent to try a different clinic.
Maybe the intended parents prefer to save money on their surrogate mother’s transportation expenses to their own clinic near them and want to utilize a fertility clinic near the surrogate.
Perhaps using that same methodology, the intended parents realize that travel costs as well as monitoring costs (your surrogate mother will need on-going blood tests, ultrasounds, and prenatal care from a fertility clinic for up to the first 3 months of the surrogate pregnancy).
These are great reasons for transferring your embryos to a clinic that is closer to your surrogate, or researching the best fertility clinic near you if you have had issues with the fertility clinic that produced your embryos. There is nothing wrong with transferring clinics, and it has become common among surrogacy agencies juggling multiple wants/needs with both surrogates and parents.
Transferring embryos also provides a way for intended parents to experience a different result if their results have been poor thus far.
What does it Cost to Transport Embryos?
We the article we cited above states anywhere from $200–400, however, at Made in the USA Surrogacy we have been quoted much higher for the cost to transport embryos for our intended parents.
Our cost estimates for transporting embryos will vary by your requesting fertility clinic, as well as what the transferring clinic’s protocol is on thawing the embryos and what method of freezing they have used.
We have had estimates as high as $2,000—and this is a domestic transfer. It will vary greatly on the ability of your fertility clinic to properly store them during transfer and who they use as a means of transport.
Contact your local fertility clinic and ask for a direct price quote.
It is possible for intended parents who live internationally to ship their embryos to a fertility clinic in the United States for surrogates or for fertility treatment for themselves.
California, in particular, is quite open to surrogates and remains a state that is eager to offer parents struggling with fertility problems to have children of their own. Through freezing your embryo, fertility clinics can carefully secure them in shipping containers designed to transport biological material. They can then be safely delivered to the fertility clinic in question in California.
From there, the embryo can be placed in a surrogate of the intended parents’ choosing after she has been prepared with fertility medications. Because freezing embryos doesn’t impact the chances for success of an embryo transplant, intended parents can rest assured that transporting their embryos is safe.
Thanks to the technology for freezing embryos, more intended parents than ever can utilize surrogates to grow a baby of their own!
If you live internationally, or you are a single or couple that is local to the Sacramento area or California—you should consider our agency, Made in the USA Surrogacy, as your go-to for surrogates.
We’ll help you through the entire surrogacy process to achieve your dreams for a family. Please fill out our inquiry form for more information on how to get started.