IVF is a highly complex procedure which adheres to a stringent protocol to ensure success. Since it involves culture of embryos in the lab, the basic units namely, the eggs and the sperms as well as the embryos have to be pampered very well so that they survive in the long run and yield a healthy pregnancy. This is said with reference to the conditions they would need to be nourished and preserved in the IVF lab, primarily the temperature and the pH of the medium.
When we talk about embryo freezing or cryopreservation, temperature is the key parameter to be considered for ensuring the safety of the embryos in the lab. Since embryos may sometimes have to be frozen for years at a stretch, the embryologists have to look after them throughout this time as even a single mistake can cost very dearly.
What is the right temperature for maintaining the embryos in the lab?
Egg freezing can be said to be an imperative part of the IVF procedure as the number of embryos cultured during the process is many, and only one or two of them are transferred into the uterus. The additional embryos are preserved for later use by freezing and storing them under favorable lab conditions, temperature being one of them.
A technique called vitrification is used for freezing the embryo and storing them over an extended period of time, sometimes many years. Embryos are frozen down to a temperature of around -196 degree Centigrade and stored in liquid nitrogen, which is maintained at this temperature, till they are needed for transfer.
The fact is that embryos are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and even a minimal fluctuation can have a negative impact on them. If the temperature is kept at the right level and also care is taken for the other parameters such as the air quality and cryopreservation medium, the frozen embryos can be stored up to a period of ten years. This makes it a widely used technique for women undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatments or those who want to delay motherhood to a later age.
What steps are taken to ensure that the embryos remain at the safe temperature in the IVF lab?
Since embryos are to be kept at the right temperature for years at a stretch, it becomes essential to ensure that they are monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For this purpose, responsible IVF labs use state-of-the-art techniques and systems that guarantee the safety of the embryos. First of all, they are stored in tanks containing nitrogen gas, which is liquefied at the temperature of -196 degree centigrade. These tanks are designed to act as thermos flasks and embryos of different patients are allocated storage spaces in them.
The tanks are inspected physically on a daily basis to detect any flaws, leakage and wear and tear, while the gas levels are also monitored regularly and replenished on a regular basis. Similarly, there are special sensors and alarms installed in the tanks, which provide warning signals in case of rise in temperature or drop in the levels of the gas. These sensors are connected with remote telephonic alert systems too so that monitoring is possible from remote locations too.
The importance of maintaining the temperature of embryos as well as taking care of other conditions in the IVF lab can be judged from the fact that these embryos serve as a back-up in case the procedure fails. These embryos actually give a second chance to the patients and also save them from the cost and trauma of a repeat IVF cycle as well as provide the patients the ability to conceive years later.
Gaudium IVF provides effective treatment for the most complex infertility issues, in addition to an array of techniques to improve the chances of pregnancy. Visit Gaudium IVF for a free second opinion by the leading fertility specialist, Dr Manika Khanna.