IVF Babble

Things to consider, along with questions to ask when choosing an IVF courier service

Recently, we heard from Jess Mcloughlin who had what she described as a “horrible experience at the hands of a cowboy courier” when shipping her embryos. It was so awful in fact, that Jess appeared on BBC1’s rip off Britain to tell her story in the hope that others might learn from her story.

Jess doesn’t want to scare people from using a cryo-shipping company, she just wants to make sure people choose a trusted, reliable, and safe company.

But how do you know if a company can be trusted? We turned to the team at Cryoport and asked them to give us a list of things to consider, along with questions to ask when choosing a courier service.

Firstly, if you are already registered with a fertility clinic or gamete bank, ask them for a list of recommended companies that specialise in cryo-shipping.  Once you have the list, your research begins.

Call each one. When you speak to the companies directly, try and find out what experience they have and how extensive it is. Ask how long they have been in business and how many shipments they perform per year.

The questions above will give you some idea of the company experience as well as their size.  Once you have these answers, you can then consider further questions such as:

  • The total number of shipments per year they perform  and what processes they have in place to ensure they provide an on-time service for pick ups and delivery.
  • What is their failure rate per year? Does the company ever have any shipments that get lost? Do they have any shipments where the shipper itself fails or has any technical issues?  If so, what measures do they have in place to prevent or mitigate this?
  • What is their contingency plan if a shipment is delayed or stuck somewhere?
  • Issues happen, no matter whether a shipment is hand-carried or not, unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong.  The most important thing for you to know is that they have extensive experience and processes in place to mitigate as much of the risk as possible,
  • How is the shipper monitored? If they use a data logger, what does it monitor and what is the data telling them?  For example, our data logger monitors in near-real time, meaning, it is constantly monitoring and uploads to our server every five minutes; we have eyes on our shipments all the time and the data is live.

Our data logger monitors the following:

  • GPS – The exact location of the shipper
  • The internal temperature of the shipper and external temperature – this enables us to see the temperature of the shipper throughout its entire journey.
  • The pressure of the shipper.
  • The tilt of the shipper – if a shipper is lay on its side for a long period of time, it will create the LN2 (liquid nitrogen) to evaporate, meaning the shipper will start to warm.
  • The humidity of the shipper.
  • Shock events of the shipper – if the shipper is dropped or knocked over, this could have a detrimental effect on the performance of the shipper

Ask to see a report or example of the data from the monitoring device

Most other data loggers provide only GPS and temperature data, retrospectively, meaning it will only be available the day after is has arrived at the receiving clinic.  If there have been any issues during transportation, it will only be apparent, after the event rather than during.

More questions to ask

  • How does the company ensure that their shippers are safe and will maintain cryogenic temperature throughout the journey?
  • Ask the cryo-shipping companies directly, what are they doing to validate and requalify their shippers.
  • What standards do they use?
  • How frequently are they requalifying their shippers?
  • How do they clean the shipper?
  • What else has been inside the shippers – make sure they have only been used for the transportation of human cells

At Cryoport, we validate and requalify all our shippers after each journey to reconfirm that they are functional and safe prior to the next shipment. We perform Normal Evaporation Rate (NER) tests as part of our requalification process and these are used to determine the static and dynamic hold time of the shipper, these measurements (data) prove that the shipper is a trustworthy unit to travel a certain distance whilst maintaining cryogenic temperature.  As part of the NER tests, we check for vacuum integrity, hairline fractures as well as shock damage to the dry shipper.  Once completed, all dry shippers are cleaned.

And finally….

  • Find out if the cryo-shipping company travels to the country you are planning to ship gametes/embryos from and too.
  • Ensure they have the relevant visa’s and permits in place to be able to enter that country.
  • If the shipment is carrying oocytes (eggs) and embryos, how do they plan to bypass X-Ray?
  • Ask if they provide insurance? If so, what does the insurance specifically cover.

If you have any questions about cryo-shipping. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team at Cryoport.

Learn more about cryo-shipping:

Our questions to Cryoport about cryo shipping




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