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MedTech Nursing Corner: Counseling patients on the emerging trend toward exclusive frozen embryo transfer IVF cycles

Due to significantly improved success rates of frozen embryo transfer (FET) over the past few years, many IVF centers are converting to “frozen-only” or “freeze-all” treatment protocols.

Numerous studies have shown the advantages of frozen embryo transfer over a fresh embryo transfer.

  • While success rates of FET appear to be equal to those of a fresh IVF cycle, industry experts believe that allowing extra time to achieve optimum uterine lining and hormone levels to return to normal is where FET cycles reign supreme. This provides the embryo with a more physiologically natural environment resulting in increased implantation rates and increased ongoing pregnancy rates.
  • In turn, research has found that pregnancies resulting from an FET have increased live birth rates, decreased miscarriage rates, and decreased risk of preterm labor.
  • Researchers have also found that babies born from FET generally have better obstetric and perinatal outcomes according to findings of a meta-analysis published in Fertility and Sterility in 2012 which indicate that they are less likely to be born premature, have greater birth weights, and have a lower risk of antepartum hemorrhage.

Another advantage to FET cycles centers around a patients risk for developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a potentially life threatening complication of IVF stimulation. With FET cycles, the chances of this condition is markedly reduced and some physicians will even suggest it is completely diminished.

Additionally, many agree that FET cycles are less stressful on the patients. A FET cycle is not dependent on stimulation response, egg development and embryo growth. Since these variables are removed, FETs have been shown to result in less cycle cancellations and are more predictable for the patient.

Most recently, a report recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed increased pregnancy rates with FET among women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. The study found that for women with PCOS who underwent frozen embryo transfer rather than fresh embryo transfer there was a higher frequency of live births after first transfer and a lower incidence of pregnancy loss.

In conclusion, it is imperative for IVF nurses to inform patients of the best treatment options as many patients may be skeptical of the newer “all-frozen” approach. Therefore, appropriate counseling on this new evidence based practice and the most up-to-date research findings is vital to good quality patient care.