To thaw or not to thaw: why I’m struggling to decide if to use my last embryo.


I can still remember the moment we got the call: we had found out a few days earlier that our first (and only) IVF cycle had failed and I felt as if being a mum would never happen to me.

After all, if doctors and technology at a hospital with one of the highest IVF success rates couldn’t get me pregnant-what could?

And then we found out one of the embryos, one of only 2 that made it to day 3 (because I have a low AMH) had made it to the freezer. If you have never had IVF, you might not realise how we felt but it was pure and utter relief. And hope-a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. We could relax; we could get another try and time didn’t seem to be ticking quite so fast. We booked a holiday, and took the summer off from worrying about it; I started a new Crohn’s Disease treatment and planned to do the second cycle with this one frozen embryo in October.

2 months later, just as our appointment date had landed on the doorstep-I found out I was somehow pregnant.

I won’t dwell on that part of the story because I HATED those stories when trying for a baby but, somehow, that is what happened and my son is now 3 in a few months’ time.

My son Jude

Ever since, I have dutifully paid £200 a year to store the frozen embryo that gave us hope, without ever knowing if I would use it. And as my fourth year is around the corner, I wanted to write about the decision that I am really struggling to answer.

It is a strange one, knowing you have a potential ready-made baby in storage (ignoring the fact, of course, that not all IVF cycles are successful, for a minute) ready to go. If I’m honest, if the decision was to simply say yes to trying for another baby (something which with fertility issues I know isn’t quite simple), the answer would be probably be no because we find it hard as a family as 3: as I’ve talked about on Instagram, the juggle is HARD! Jude has a speech delay, we find ourselves constantly scrambling when he’s home with ANOTHER illness he caught from nursery, I have a chronic illness and, if I’m honest, I still don’t feel I’m really back to myself after having him 3 years ago. I often am at home with Jude and ask myself: ‘what would I even do if there was ANOTHER small human to take care of here?’

There’s a reason more and more families are stopping at one child; childcare costs, the fact we are living in such a scary world right now, that most families can’t afford to live on one wage so mums feel pulled in both directions between childcare and work. It’s no wonder, as The Guardian reports: 17% of mums are only having one child.

But it is easy to say no to a hypothetical situation: it’s a lot harder to say no to something more tangible and that’s the unique dilemma I and so many other parents struggle with-so many end up paying for an embryo each year because they’re unable to make a decision. Turns out, it’s not just me potentially throwing money away. “Every January I pay the bill and I’d happily pay forever rather than make a decision,” another parent told me anonymously.

With over 50,000 people having IVF in the UK each year, it’s actually a common dilemma but one that we rarely talk about. Yet 1.7 million embroys are thrown away each year across the world. There are many many reasons for this: you don’t know how many embroyos a woman will create and fertilise until the process starts-many women with no AMH issues may make into double figures. It’s not feasible to use them all (not everyone wants a Von Trapp family) and for those with smaller numbers, circumstances change-marriages breakup, people or conceive naturally. And also, of course, because people change their minds for no reason at all-and that’s okay! A small number can be donated to medical research or even to other families, but this is not always possible.

“I have about ten frozen embryos and I don’t want any more children-thankfully I have two after successful IVF and we’re so lucky. But I feel this weight of dread as the time runs out. A slightly irrational fear that the clinic won’t actually destroy them and they’ll donate them and my kids will be walking around and I’ll have no idea. But to destroy them? It feels horrible-like they’ll be dispensable. I have PCOS so produced a ton of eggs but wish we didn’t have so funny-if my kids weren’t my kids then they’d (the embryos) have been my kids. ” explained another parent I spoke to, who also wished to be anonymous.

So now, back to us, we are left 1. I don’t think I can go through it again- the waiting; the symptom-checking and of course, the devastation if it doesn’t work. Add on a £1000+ fee and the fact I’d have to go under general anaesthetic for egg insertion (not everyone does but I do) and relive one of the most upsetting experiences of my life, I am not sure why I would put myself through it again if I don’t want it badly enough like I wanted the first time.

But then (stupidly, as someone who is logical and extremely pro-choice) I can’t help feeling guilty; I feel like letting down both Jude at the chance of a sibling and the person I was 4 years ago who would have given everything for this. It’s hard when you’ve felt that desperate to imagine now just changing your mind.

And what was it all those injections, scans and tears for if not for that one single frozen embroyo? I also am acutely aware of people all over the world who would give everything to just have one more chance because I was one of those people do.

I don’t have the answer but, my search history tells me, is a common dilemma: I’ve read stories on forums about planting them in their garden, even having them inserted at the wrong time (so it won’t result in a pregnancy but will become a part of them) or do what I will most likely do, pay £200 a year until someone says ‘enough is enough’-likely when they reach their 50s, after they’ve spent thousands of pounds on something they know they will never use because they can’t deal with the alternative.

Whilst I don’t have the answer, I do want to talk about it, mainly because I’ve never seen anyone openly discuss it in mainstream conversation and I hope this post might go a very small way in changing that.

One comment

  1. I know exactly how you feel! I have a unicornuate uterus (right) with only a left working ovary so the potential of getting pregnant naturally is miniscule. We managed to get 5 really good quality embryos and were successful on our second transfer. Before I had my baby in my arms I didn’t really think much about the future of the remaining embryos but somehow now it feels like I’m disregarding my potential future babies. If I had more time and financial stability I think I would certainly use them all but it just seems so unrealistic at this point, it pains my heart because now, they aren’t just embryos, they are babies to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *