Couple finds pregnancy success through frozen embryo IVF

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) -- Couples having problems conceiving often turn to in vitro fertilization to get pregnant. A recent study shows using a frozen embryo instead of a fresh one in the process may lead to better results.

Nic and Laurie Ruff went through the process twice and are now trying for their third child. After trying for a year and a half to have a baby, Laurie's doctor recommended in vitro fertilization, so they went to Dr. Gail Whitman-Elia at Advanced Fertility.

"I think everybody grows up believing they have the right to procreate," said Whitman-Elia. "It's sort of entrenched in the American way of life."

It was by fertilizing the eggs outside of the body that the Ruffs had their two sons two years apart.

"Nathan was born in 2009," said Nic Ruff. "He loves to read. He's gonna play soccer this year.... Bryson is almost two. He'll be two in May, and he is rambunctious."

Dr. Whitman-Elia says in vitro fertilization is a fairly quick process.

"We put the woman on fertility drugs, put her to sleep, harvest her eggs through the vagina," says Whitman-Elia. "It takes about eight minutes to harvest the eggs. The eggs are then mated with the sperm in the lab. Most of the time they're going to be micro injected -- one sperm into each egg."

In Nic and Laurie's case, after fertilization, the embryos were frozen in a batch and thawed at different times when the couple was ready to get pregnant.

"They're actually kind of twins, because they were both conceived on the same time," said Nic. "This one's just 27 months older."

A recent study out of Sweden found that couples like the Ruffs who freeze their embryos before pregnancy tend to have a slightly lower rate of poor pregnancy outcomes than women using fresh embryos.

After two successes, the Ruffs are trying for their third baby.

"We just finished a fresh cycle," said Laurie. "They froze them today I believe, and we have ten frozen. So we're going to come back in a few weeks I guess and start another frozen cycle."

Dr. Whitman-Elia says environmental factors, diet and stress levels can affect a couple's ability to conceive.

"Women don't renew their egg supply," said Whitman-Elia. "We're stuck with what we have, so if a woman is a smoker, she's poisoning the only supply she has. On the other hand, men, because they regenerate their sperm constantly, they can get rid of a bad population of sperm and generate a new population of sperm."

Dr. Whitman-Elia offers this advice to improve your chance of getting pregnant:

To keep your eggs or sperm healthy, don't eat foods with pesticides or hormones, drink filtered water, and don't microwave with plastic. Also, avoiding nicotine can keep your body as healthy as possible.

The latest breakthroughs have also allowed doctors to freeze a woman's eggs for extended periods of time until the woman is ready to have them fertilized. Dr. Whitman-Elia explains how that is done here.