EMBRYO FREEZING – QUICK FACTS

We’ve heard a lot about embryo freezing over the past months, but what is it exactly?

If there’s one thing we’re good at here in Malta is hyping up something without even understanding what it actually is. Yes, most people have grasped the basic idea of what embryo freezing is: grab an embryo and shove it in a freezer; then if it’s not used, it’s thrown away. Yet, much like was done with divorce and gay adoption, the subject has been stripped of its context, and we’re pointing out a flaw rather than understanding the reason why it may be necessary.

When couples undergo IVF, eggs are removed from a woman’s womb and are artificially inseminated with a man’s sperm in a culture dish. The term ‘in vitro’, which means ‘in glass’, comes from this concept.

Now, IVF is by no means a fool-proof way of getting pregnant. So even after you’ve tried getting pregnant, and came to the heartbreaking realisation that you can’t procreate, you may undergo IVF and still not manage to have a child.

As it stands, all fertilised eggs in Malta are used in that cycle of IVF. But with embryo freezing, a couple could opt to use up any other eggs that are left over, or have them fertilised and stored for the future. That could be the recent future, after the cycle of IVF doesn’t work, or in five years’ time, should they wish to have more children.

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The debate here has never been a scientific one. Scientists know that not all thawed fertilised eggs will survive and that it will lower the chances of actually getting pregnant when compared to ‘fresh’ ones – nothing certain apart from death and taxes, after all.

The matter here is purely ethical and moral: Is a fertilised egg already a human being? It definitely has the potential to be one, but potential and actuality are two very different things.

And if it is a human being, should we be freezing that person indefinitely? And what if that egg isn’t used and is thrown out? Wouldn’t we be killing that person?

Those are all relevant and important questions to ask, but it really shouldn’t be a black and white matter. After all, until a few decades ago, people thought masturbating was a deadly sin because it was a waste of sperm, which could potentially become a human being.

But let’s put aside the morality of it all. Embryo freezing could give couples a much-needed chance to actually get pregnant. Imagine you have cervical cancer and would still like to have children should you make it through. Or if you’re undergoing gender reassignment surgery, but would still like to have children. Or if you’re a soldier going to war, and would still like your partner to be able to have your children no matter what happens. Why shouldn’t you?

These may seem like the whims of selfish people, but why should they not be able to procreate when the technology exists for them to do so?

 

What do you think? Has this changed your opinion on embryo freezing?

Let us know in the comments section below.