Three of the Biggest Advances in IVF

IVF is the process by which mature eggs are retrieved from a woman's body and fertilized in a lab with a man's sperm, forming an embryo. That embryo is then implanted back into the woman's body to carry out the pregnancy. The first "test-tube baby," Louise Brown was born in 1978 and since IVF's start, more than 8 million babies have been born from it as a result, a recent study reported

How far has it come over the last four decades? 

Dr. William Schoolcraft, the founder and medical director of Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM), which specializes in IVF and other fertility science pointed out three of what he believes to be are the biggest advancements the reproductive field has made regarding IVF. 

1.) Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection allows a doctor to inject a single sperm into an egg with a fine needle. 

Before ICSI, "if men had very low sperm counts, typically the sperm wouldn't penetrate the shell around the egg and fertilize the egg, and so we had to tell couples with very, very poor sperm, 'You probably won't fertilize your wife's egg and you need donor sperm.'"

2.) When an egg is retrieved from a woman's body and subsequently fertilized, it becomes an embryo that is then cultured (or grown) in a petri dish "where every 12 to 24 hours it's just dividing; it's going from one cell to two and two cells to four (and so on)," Schoolcraft said.  Blastocyst Culture is the process of leaving the fertilized egg in the petri dish for five days to grow, as opposed to three days. This allows the embryo to divide into about sixty cells, whereas three days allows for about four to 10 cells. 

3.) Chromosomal Screening at the Blastocyst Stage allows doctors to test the embryos prior to implantation for any chromosomal abnormalities, like having less or more than the necessary 46. Chromosomally abnormal embryos "have little potential ... for forming a viable pregnancy," This advancement "pretty much eliminated multiple births altogether," Schoolcraft said. "In addition, when people did get pregnant ... they already knew (the baby) had the right chromosomes. So they weren't going to be facing a high risk for miscarriage."

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Credits: Taylor Seely, USA TODAY Published July 26, 2018 | 

Michael Hickey