The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has confirmed it has granted a licence to the National Maternity Hospital’s not-for-profit Merrion fertility clinic to provide a new embryo freezing technique — the first of its kind in the country.
While freezing embryos developed via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment has become relatively common place in recent years, the survival rate post-thawing has generally not exceeded 75%.
This is because under the current process, there is a risk of ice crystals known as blastomeres forming inside the embryo’s cells, which reduce the viability of the embryo.
However, under a new license amendment provided by the IMB, the Merrion has been given permission to start freezing both embryos and blastocyst stage embryos.
The latter type is an embryo at a more advanced stage of development.
The move means the likelihood of the embryo surviving the post-freeze process is higher, at 95%, and the possibility of inadvertently becoming pregnant with twins is far lower.
However, until the IMB decision to grant the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin, a licence to provide the service, it was not available to Irish patients.
Reacting to the ruling, Merrion fertility clinic founder and clinical director, Dr Mary Wingfield, said the move was “a major leap forward in patient treatment opportunities”.
She said that while “mother nature” should still be the first option in terms of conception, those suffering from ovarian failure, undergoing chemotherapy or who have not met a partner in time to have a child but want at some point to start a family should consider the embryo freezing option.