Test tube miracles

As World Embryology Day approaches, the writer looks at advances that have brought hope to several couples.

July 19, 2014 03:41 pm | Updated 03:41 pm IST

Although 100 per cent success in IVF is never a given, numerous critical steps can be taken by Embryologists to improve chances of a take-home baby.

Although 100 per cent success in IVF is never a given, numerous critical steps can be taken by Embryologists to improve chances of a take-home baby.

When Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby, was born on July 25, 1978, many couples yearning for a child saw a ray of hope. However, the doctors who pioneered this procedure would not have anticipated that millions of babies through IVF would follow.That day is now celebrated as World Embryology Day (the term embryology was coined after her arrival).

Embryologists are important (but sometimes invisible) members of the team of doctors (that includes infertility specialists/gynaecologists, andrologists, endocrinologists, etc.) who are in charge of IVF. What role does an embryologist play?

Although 100 per cent success in IVF is never a given, numerous critical steps can be taken by Embryologists to improve chances of a take-home baby.

Dr. Sasikala Natarajamani, Chief Consultant and Scientific Director, Crea Conceptions, says, “Among the crucial aspects of an Embryologist’s work are maintaining the viability of the sperm and egg after collection, preparing them for fertilisation, monitoring embryo development, choosing the best ones, preserving embryos for future use and taking care of the ethical issues.”

Dr. Hisham Greiss, Lab Director, Fertility and Cryogenics Lab, Illinois, the U.S., adds, “Every effort should be made to segregate the motile sperm from immotile ones and pick normal-looking, healthy, swimming sperms. Due to modern lifestyle and exposure to chemicals, electromagnetic waves, heat, caffeine, nicotine etc, not all motile sperm have healthy DNA.”

Dr. Natarajamani adds, “Choosing a good quality egg that has the desired maturity, and is free from abnormalities (no pitting, holes or fragmentation), with an outer layer that’s not too thin or thick can better outcomes.”

“My embryologist helped me make a decision during my first IVF when I was caught in the horns of a dilemma about the number of embryos to be transferred,” says Poornima*. The second time around, her assessment of the health of the eggs, and later the embryo, was invaluable.”

With the mushrooming of Assisted Conception centres across the country, couples contemplating IVF would be well-advised to choose IVF teams with qualified embryologists (those with a degree in medicine offer advantages) and high ethical standards.

As Dr. Greiss’ says, “In complicated cases, an embryologist with a medical background can troubleshoot the causes that caused the problem, which in many cases is due to improper preparation of patient, and missing signs and symptoms that result in poor IVF outcome. The endgame is embryologists’ work with eggs and sperms that they get. If they are not good, the outcome is not good.”

Points to remember

*Avoid smoking and alcohol. Alcohol lowers a man’s sperm count and in women, it causes birth defects. Smoking reduces fertility.

*Maintain the ideal BMI. Excess body fat in men is a significant cause of low sperm count. Regular exercise burns fat, reduces the harmful effects of stress on hormone levels and boosts testosterone levels in men. However, excessive exercise can cause irregular periods in women.

*Eating right keeps hormone levels at normal and improves the health of the reproductive system .Vitamins C and E and Zinc and Selenium help increase sperm count and motility and reduce stress on the female reproductive organs. Green leafy vegetables (rich in folic acid), eggs and dairy (rich in calcium), nuts and seeds (rich in Vitamin E), and citrus fruits (good sources of Vitamin C) provide essential nutrients.

*Reduce intake of caffeine found in tea and coffee, chocolates and some soft drinks.

*Avoid hard bicycle seats and hot baths. Overheated testicles can lower sperm counts, so avoid saunas, hot baths, sunbathing and tight underwear. Prolonged cycling on hard seats can damage nerves and blood vessels in the genital area.

*Lack of sleep affects hormone levels in men and women, so make sure you get those eight hours.

*Check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter medicines and herbal remedies.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.