As your embryos grow, we need to frequently assess their development, so that we can select the best embryo to transfer to your womb. This assessment has traditionally been limited in frequency, as it required repeated opening of the incubator in which the embryos were growing. A bit like opening the oven door when baking a cake, this can lead to undesirable fluctuations in growth conditions.
The EmbryoScope time-lapse system solves this dilemma. This specially designed incubator has a built-in microscope and camera, allowing us to take detailed images of your growing embryos at short, periodic intervals. It’s near-continuous observation enables a more in-depth analysis of embryo quality by our scientists, allowing us to select the embryo that will most likely result in a successful pregnancy. What’s more, the EmbryoScope allows us to do this without physically removing the embryos from the incubator, ensuring a stable growth environment as they develop.
Once fertilised, your embryos are grown in a laboratory dish for 5–6 days before we transfer them to your womb. During this time, the embryo must be bathed in an appropriate medium that will support its growth. This medium should closely mimic the environment of a natural pregnancy, including how an embryo’s surroundings would usually change, as it travels from the fallopian tubes to the womb.
To achieve this, we use what’s called a sequential media culture system – embryos are bathed in one medium for the first 3 days of growth (when they would naturally be in the fallopian tubes), then bathed in a second medium for the last 2–3 days of growth (when they would naturally be in the uterus). In doing so, we meet the changing growth requirements of the embryo, optimising the chance of success.
Once an embryo has grown, the last step in the IVF process is to implant the embryo in your womb (your uterus). To increase the likelihood of success during this step, we use EmbryoGlue.
EmbryoGlue is a medium specifically designed to promote successful embryo transfer. It acts like its name suggests – as a glue, helping the embryo to ‘stick’ to the wall of the uterus. EmbryoGlue consists of a compound called hyaluronan, which is usually present at high concentrations in the uterus during the natural beginnings of a pregnancy. It also contains the protein, albumin, which helps in the implantation process as well.
By placing the embryo in EmbryoGlue before transferring it to the uterus, we mimic the natural conditions of the uterus, improving the chance of a successful transfer. Importantly, there’s evidence to back this up. A large review study found that the use of hyaluronan, the main component of EmbryoGlue, increased the rates of IVF pregnancy and birth.
For all ICSI procedures, we routinely use an incredibly powerful microscope that utilises polarised light. By using this advanced microscopic imaging system, we can assess a structure inside your eggs called a ‘spindle’. This allows us to identify if an egg is in optimal condition for fertilisation – higher pregnancy rates have been observed in embryos derived from eggs with a normal-shaped spindle. Thus, by using this system, our scientists are better able to select the eggs with the greatest potential of producing a pregnancy. This leading technology also allows us to assess the best position to inject the sperm into the egg during ICSI.
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