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Not All Embryos Are Created Equal

By Dr Phill Matson

During an IVF cycle it’s highly likely that more than one egg will be collected and fertilised. The challenge for our IVF laboratory is then to provide the best environment to nurture the embryo, and to be able to identify the one most likely to implant in the uterus, achieve a viable pregnancy, and result in a healthy baby.
There are two main strategies (both available at Fertility North) used to maximise the pregnancy rates of IVF cycles through embryo selection; extended culture and time-lapse photography.


Extended Culture

This technique relies on culturing the embryos for extra days and identifying the ones that reach the developmental milestone of a blastocyst. While this process does result in a higher pregnancy rate for that cycle, many embryos do not grow well in the culture system and so these are usually discarded rather than be frozen. These embryos may have developed better in the body, so losing the chance to implant these embryos in future cycles means that the overall cumulative pregnancy rate per oocyte (egg) collection will not have improved. 

Time-lapse Videography

The videoing of embryos in a specialised incubator has revolutionised the way that embryologists view embryos. No longer limited to snap-shots taken once or twice a day, images can be taken every 10 minutes. Those embryos that have good morphology and division patterns are then selected, and have a much improved rate of implantation, while abnormal patterns of division can be used to deselect embryos.

At Fertility North, this technology is utilised by our state of the art time-lapse system, the EmbryoScope®. This is the Rolls Royce of incubators, and is combined with a time-lapse video camera that allows for the uninterrupted culture of embryos whilst still taking images at 10-minute intervals through seven planes of focus. Special Leica optics designed for red light at 635nm are used to eliminate exposure of the embryos to high-energy light.

This system allows for the selection of the embryos with the highest implantation probability without the need for an extended culture, eliminating the possible downsides of that method of embryo selection. 

Made-to-Measure Treatment

The availability of both strategies of embryo culture and selection at Fertility north, rather than the clinic simply believing in one or the other, allows the treatment of patients to be tailored to their needs taking in to account both the medical history and the patient’s wishes.