Q&A with Kimenthra Raja- Freezing your Embryos

Kimenthra Raja is the Director of Hart Fertility Clinic and is a qualified embryologist. She has an MSc degree from the University of Stellenbosch, an Honours degree in Genetics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with more than 20 years’ experience in IVF laboratory practice.

She has set up and co-owns several IVF laboratories on the African continent, including in Windhoek, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Cape Town, notching up several firsts in IVF pregnancies for these laboratories.

Alongside Hart, she is the founder of the first South African Egg Donation Agency (EDSA) and Egg Donation agency (DESA), which continues to run a very successful programme more than a decade later.

We sat down with Kimenthra Raja to go through the process of freezing embryos and why for some women it is a necessity to do so.

When should women freeze their eggs?
Women in their late 30s who still want to defer pregnancy for some years, and who are in a stable relationship, may consider embryo rather than egg freezing.
Women who do not have a life partner, or are not yet ready to have a baby, may want to freeze their eggs (this is known as fertility preservation).

This can also apply to women who have to undergo cancer therapy, so potentially damaging their reproductive capacity. The survival of these frozen eggs has improved dramatically in recent years, thanks to better freezing techniques, and we offer this reliable service.

What is the procedure of embryo freezing exactly?
The procedure is the same as for conventional IVF, but instead of the embryos being transferred back into the uterus, the resultant good-quality embryos are frozen, sometimes for years. Survival rates of frozen embryos are better than for frozen eggs, so couples may want to choose the former option to improve their chances of becoming parents further down the line. You will undergo controlled ovarian hyper-stimulation, as you would with IVF, to produce eggs we can retrieve for freezing. They are frozen immediately afterwards, and can be used years later when you are ready to try for a baby. The eggs are then thawed, injected with a single sperm to achieve fertilisation, and then transferred in the uterus.

Is the embryo transfer painful?
The embryo transfer is a painless and easy procedure much like a gynaecological examination done under ultrasound guidance.

How many embryos are transferred?
Usually 2 embryos are transferred. You may freeze remaining embryos for use at a later date, if their quality is good. The freezing is usually done by vitrification which promises high recovery rates.

How are the eggs retrieved or taken out?
Once the ultrasound shows that the eggs are mature, the retrieval is scheduled for two days later. This procedure is done under conscious sedation so you won’t feel anything. The eggs are retrieved through the upper vagina using a needle guided by ultrasound. The procedure itself takes about twenty to thirty minutes.

How are the embryos cultured?
Once the eggs are collected, they are fertilized using your partner’s or husband’s sperm. (Frozen sperm from our sperm donor cryobank can also be obtained if required). The clinic laboratory has excellent facilities for ICSI (injection of sperm into eggs), embryo freezing and blastocyst culture.

What happens next?
A blood test for pregnancy hormone (ßHCG) will be done 10 days after your embryo transfer. This can be performed once you have returned home. The blood test is usually repeated 2 days later to check the pregnancy hormone levels are rising appropriately.

Kimenthra is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding infertility.
You can reach Kimenthra on enquiries@eggdonationsouthafrica.co.za.