Duke University Logo A latest Duke University Medical Center study says that fertility patients who have successfully born a child have an emotional attachment to their embryos left behind. They feel responsible for their left over, stored and frozen embryos from their treatment.

There are presently an estimated 500,000 frozen embryos in storage. Apparently, this study is the largest and the only multi-site study to unveil the state of these embryos. It reveals the concern of these patients for their after-treatment of the left-over-embryos.

80 percent of fertility treatment cycles use fresh embryos. Still, some patients, as backup, want their created embryos to be kept frozen. So, extra embryos always remain after the commencement of the patient’s treatment. Earlier studies have revealed that, after a successful child bearing treatment, maximum patients are indecisive about what to do with their left over frozen embryos for at least a period of five years.

More than 1000 fertility patients were studied. Lead investigator, Anne Drapkin Lyerly, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist and bioethicist at Duke, says, though the patients feel attached to their embryos, they are not very comfortable with the idea of seeing their embryo turn into children. Patients, supposedly, do everything in their power to prevent their left over embryos from turning in to children.

In this survey, the researchers gave the patients four embryo disposition options: discarding; reproductive donation; indefinite freezing; and donation for research. Undoubtedly most of them chose the last option. This shows that lack of option is the reason behind patients’ indecisiveness.

About 20 percent of fertility patients were reluctantly open to two methods: placement of embryos in an infertile woman’s body; and the idea of a ritual disposal ceremony. Lyerly says, in spite of it these options are never recommended to the patients.

Lyerly hopes that highlighting this issue, will give rise to various clinical guidelines for the fertility treatments patients. She also says that, this will help the patients in disposing of the extra embryos in a way that is morally acceptable to them as well.

The study findings are published online in Fertility & Sterility.