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Can Embryos Get Freezer Burn

A question I hear rather frequently is “How long can embryos be frozen and still be okay?”  This topic usually arises when a couple is going through IVF and trying to envision a future with a child from a fresh cycle and “siblings” in cold storage.  The answer has always been “Well, we have someone who had a baby after 5 or 6 years being frozen,” because honestly, no one really knows the answer.  Theoretically, it could be indefinite because the embryos are maintained at a temperature where cellular function ceases.  Well, now I am taking care of a woman who moved from another city over 10 years ago.  While there, she had undergone preliminary treatment in preparation for IVF, so when she moved to Austin in 1999, we started a cycle right away.  She was in her 20’s with wonderful ovarian response and had 2 beautiful embryos to transfer fresh and several to cryopreserve.  She surprisingly did not conceive in her fresh cycle, and life got busy for her and her husband.  They recently returned for a frozen embryo cycle.  We repeated some of her evaluation and discovered that she had not had sufficient preparation for IVF all those years ago, so we corrected things in a short outpatient procedure before her frozen embryo transfer.  We thawed and transferred 2 embryos frozen over a decade ago, and the couple is pregnant with twins!  Now when someone asks the question about how long can embryos stay in the freezer, I can proudly say, “At least 10 years!”

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