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Fertility, IVF and Egg Donation
by Dr. Mohamad Irani on Apr.02, 2019, under Chromosomal Abnormalities in Eggs, Embryo implantation, IVF success rates, Miscarriage, Number of IVF Embryos to Transfer, Preimplantation Genetic Screening, Single Embryo Transfer
It has been an exciting time for the field of Reproductive Medicine, which has witnessed major advances over the last three decades. For instance, the recent evolution in Preimplantation Genetic Testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A, formerly called Preimplantation Genetic Screening [PGS]), has provided an important tool to enhance embryo selection and subsequently elective single embryo transfer (eSET).
Advancements of Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidy (PGT-A)
Embryo biopsy on Day 3 has been suggested to adversely affect the implantation potential of the embryo. Hence, the majority of IVF laboratories have switched to blastocyst biopsy on Day 5 or 6. Evidence supports that the improvements in the biopsy technique, and the removal of approximately 4-5 cells from the trophectoderm (precursors to the placenta) on Day 5, when performed by expert embryologists, may not negatively impact the reproductive potential of the embryo.
Furthermore, enhancements to genetic testing, which currently analyzes all chromosomes compared to the initial platform that analyzed only a limited number of chromosomes, have significantly improved the accuracy of the test.
Clinical Benefits of PGT-A
This technology has significantly decreased miscarriage rates and increased the implantation rate per transfer. The high implantation potential of embryos determined to be euploid by PGT-A has contributed to the increased adoption of elective single embryo transfer, (eSET). This has subsequently reduced the incidence of multiple gestations, and all associated maternal and fetal complications.
Despite its critical advantages, PGT-A comes with some risks and may not be the best option for all patients; therefore, personalization of care is key to success. All patients should understand the pros and cons of each procedure in order to make informed decisions.
In my practice, I help patients understand the advanced reproductive technologies that offer them their best chance of achieving a healthy baby.
Single embryo transfer is an up-and-coming more commonly utilized procedure in the field of in vitro fertilization in recent years. There has been a push for several years to reduce the number of multiple pregnancies by reducing the number of embryos transferred with IVF. However, the push to do elective single embryo transfer is opposed by most couples that do IVF in the US.
It is a simple problem without a simple solution:
- Single embryo transfer success rates are lower than when 2 are transferred
- Couples want a baby (or twins) ASAP, and they don’t want to pay for multiple IVF attempts
- They fear failing to become pregnant more than they fear the risks from a twin pregnancy
This dilemma is often due to the fact that the large majority of patients in the US are self-pay for all costs associated with IVF. In the US the average cost of IVF is about $10,000 (for monitoring and procedures) and about $3500 for the medications. With these high costs, couples will often push for at least two embryos for transfer – even if the female partner is young.
Guidelines from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) were established many years ago for the maximum number of embryos to transfer (see table below). These guidelines take into consideration the age of the female and other criteria that help predict risks for having a multiple pregnancy.
ASRM guidelines have been modified over the years – with the recommended maximum number for transfer being reduced each time. I believe that the ASRM guidelines on the maximum number of embryos for transfer are excellent.
Currently the guidelines suggest a maximum of 1 to 2 embryos to be transferred for a female partner under 35 years old if the transfer is being done on day 2 or 3 – and a maximum of one embryo to be transferred for that age group if the transfer is being done on day 5. These maximum numbers are for patients considered to have a “favorable prognosis”.
When female age is over 35, the maximum number of embryos allowed increases. Everyone knows about the Octomom mess – a situation where a physician went way overboard – with a patient that was just as far out there…
Favorable prognosis would be couples having their first IVF attempt, good embryo morphology scoring, left over embryos available for freezing, or a previous successful IVF cycle. The guidelines allow transfer of additional embryos for patients that have a less favorable prognosis.
When single embryo transfer is performed, blastocyst embryo transfer on day 5 after fertilization appears to be the best method. Embryos that have continued developing normally to the 5th day have a higher chance of implanting than do day 3 embryos (on the average).
- Learn more about blastocyst transfer and multiple pregnancies
- Learn about day 5 blastocyst embryo grading
Octomom and IVF – before June of 2008
- In June of 2008, Nadya Suleman was a single, unemployed mother of 6 children
- According to reports, she was receiving some “public assistance”
- All six of her children were reportedly conceived through in vitro fertilization
- All 6 kids were under 7 years old, including 2 year old twins
Then, she does IVF again
- In June of 2008, her IVF doctor transferred 6 frozen-thawed embryos to her uterus.
- Apparently, all six embryos survived – and 2 split into identical twins – so she ended up with eight fetuses growing in her uterus.
- Nadya declined having a fetal reduction procedure. Reduction can be done to selectively reduce the number of fetuses.
- The vast majority octuplet pregnancies would be expected to result in death of all fetuses after a severely premature birth.
- In her case the pregnancy progressed to viability. All 8 babies were born (prematurely) in January of 2009.
- This is apparently only the second living set of octuplets ever born in the United States.
Public debate rages
- Is she a fit mother?
- Should the fertility specialist have been willing to treat her at all?
- How many embryos should the doctor have transferred to her uterus?
- Should a physician that transfers that many embryos to a 33-year-old be sanctioned – or even lose his medical license?
- Why doesn’t the government pass laws to control fertility doctors?
Welcome to the
Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago
Richard Sherbahn, MD is a Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility specialist.
Dr. Sherbahn founded the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago in 1997.
He will post regularly about fertility issues.
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