A new time lapsed embryo screening test is available for women going through IVF treatment. After egg retrieval, eggs are placed in an incubator to mature. On fertilisation, the embryo is first graded for quality on day three and again on day five when it is checked under a microscope for the number of cells it contains and how much fragmentation has occurred. An ideal number of cells for a three day embryo is eight, with seven to nine cells being average. Embryos who have five or fewer cells at this stage are more likely to be unsuccessful and result in miscarriage.
A biopsy is also be done on the embryos prior to implantation to assess which ones are the best quality to transfer. This can increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. In addition, biopsies are used to detect chromosomal conditions that can cause disability and may be utilised by couples with inherited genetic anomalies. Unfortunately, embryo biopsy carries some risk and may in itself prevent successful implantation.
That’s why scientists have been working to develop newer, less invasive and more accurate methods for determining embryo viability.
The time lapsed Eeva embryo screening provides a way to assess the growth of embryos without disturbing them or compromising their ability to implant. A microscope that is specially equipped with a camera is placed in the incubator with the enbryos and the camera videos their development from day one to day three. Eeva then calculates based upon these videos which ones would be the best to transfer, putting them into either a ‘high’ category or a ‘low’ category. High means embryos that have a high chance of normal, healthy development.
Embryologists can then use the video images and data with their own experience and observations to select the embryos most likely to survive pregnancy and result in a live birth.
Eeva is currently the only non-invasive test available to assess embryo quality and aid in their selection.
Early clinical research shows that using time lapsed embryo screening prior to implantation can improve the ability of embryologists to correctly identify the best embryos with 53% higher accuracy over their traditional methods. Quality embryos are more likely to implant and the risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) is lessened. Most early miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities that cause a fatal flaw which prevents the embryo from progressing beyond a certain stage, so choosing embryos with a healthy number of cells that are showing normal development can provide at least some measure of protection against miscarriage. It is hoped this will boost the success rate of IVF.
Women over 36 could benefit too. advanced maternal age brings with it gradually degrading DNA. Eggs that are contained in a girl’s ovaries from birth lose their quality over time, becoming less suitable for fertilisation. Women beyond this age have a higher chance of giving birth to a child with birth defects and chromosome abnormalities like Down Syndrome. They also have a higher rate of miscarriage, lower rates of natural conception and lower success rates when using assisted reproductive techniques. The Eeva test is one way that older women can improve their chances of getting pregnant.
Mr Davis provides time lapsed embryo screening for his patients who are undergoing IVF treatment cycles at CARE London. A cost of £800 will be added to the IVF cycle, but although the initial outlay is greater, it may save money in the future by reducing miscarriage and the number of cycles needed to achieve pregnancy.