10 May How is life created in the IVF laboratories
By Reproclinic Editorial Committee
This is one of the most frequent questions during consultations and it’s logical. One of the great mysteries of assisted reproduction is how can life be created in the laboratories; how, with the sperm and/or the oocytes of our patients, we manage to create the embryos that will later be transferred to the future mothers.
This is an amazing process through which we help many patients to fulfil their dream of creating their own family and, even if we are so lucky to see it every day in our laboratories, it can’t be denied that it is quite difficult to understand. That is why we are going to try to explain it in a simple way so that you can better understand what happen.
The first thing you must keep in mind is that In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) consists on the union of the oocyte and the spermatozoid in the laboratory, both genetic codes combining thus to give rise to an embryo. The cells of this embryo start then to divide and after five days of development, they reach the so-called stage of blastocyst. It is then that we proceed to transfer the embryo to the future mother’s uterus so that it can implant.
But before reaching this point, there is a whole previous process, whose different phases you will discover below:
The first step is to stimulate the ovaries by the most appropriate dose of medication for each patient and therefore obtain the greatest number of good quality oocytes as possible. The growth of the follicles, where the oocytes grow, is then controlled by periodic ultrasound scans.
On due course, we will then proceed to the patient’s oocytes retrieval by means of an ultrasound-controlled ovarian pick-up: a very simple surgery, which only requires very mild sedation and even allows the patient to go home that same day.
And now comes one of our favourite moments! Once we have analysed the sperm sample (should it be from the partner or the donor, according to each case), we select the best spermatozoa and put them in contact with each egg so that fertilization can take place in a practically natural way, although occurring in the laboratory of course. When this process does not happen spontaneously, we apply a technique called ICSI, which consists of introducing each spermatozoid into the oocyte using a micropipette, helping to create the so-expected embryos.
These embryos will then remain in culture in our laboratory for several days while we assess and analyse their evolution. Not all the oocytes have the capacity to be fertilized nor all the embryos evolve correctly and reach the fifth day of development, until the so-called stage of blastocyst. At this point, the embryo would have already overcome two key moments of its development and will have the potential for pregnancy; but, again, not all blastocysts have the same possibilities of implantation and, therefore, it is extremely important to have a team of biologists as experienced as ours, who know how to select the embryos with the best characteristics.
Then comes the magic moment of their transfer to the future mother’s womb and the sweet wait until baby’s birth. And don’t forget that all remaining good quality embryos will be vitrified while waiting for another treatment,… why not to extend the family?