Since the very first assisted fertility treatments, experts have continually sought to find new ways to help patients build their families safely and effectively. Nowadays, assisted reproductive technology is so advanced that we can even capture the very first moments of a baby’s biological beginnings. This technology is known as Embryoscope.
Pioneered by IVI, the Embryoscope is a cutting-edge system which records pictures of your embryo as it develops. But this is so much more than your baby’s first photos – they also provides valuable data to your embryologists. With these images, they can monitor embryonic development without disturbing the embryo by removing it from the carefully controlled environment of its incubator. They can also use this information to make decisions about the optimum time for embryo transfer.
In this article, we’ll answer some common questions about EmbryoScope, such as:
- What is EmbryoScope?
- Who is EmbryoScope suitable for?
- What are the benefits of EmbryoScope?
- Why is EmbryoScope considered a ‘treatment add-on’?
What is EmbryoScope?
Once fertilisation has occurred during an In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment, embryos are transferred to a special incubator. Here, they are monitored at intervals until they are ready to be transferred to the uterus for implantation. EmbryoScope is a state-of-the-art incubator with a special built-in camera and microscope. It uses a time-lapse system to capture images of the embryos at regularly timed intervals – usually every 10 minutes. These images are then pieced together to generate time-lapse videos, which helps embryologists determine their potential in further development.
Just like a conventional incubator, the EmbryoScope incubator carefully mimics the physiological conditions found within a woman’s body. This means that everything from the temperature and the pH balance, through to the humidity and presence of certain gases, are monitored to create a stable environment for the embryo. However, unlike conventional incubators, EmbryoScope removes the need to disturb embryos during crucial stages of their development.
Who is EmbryoScope suitable for?
Embryoscope is an treatment add-on to IVF treatment, which means it is down to each individual patient to decide whether they would like to use it or not. Although Embryoscope has known success improving pregnancy rates, it is important to note that it can’t change how an embryo develops. The purpose of Embryoscope is to identify the healthiest embryo based on its embryonic development and determine when is the optimal time for transfer. This is what can give the embryos higher implantation potential, contribute towards improved pregnancy rates, and give your IVF treatment the very best chance of success.
However, there are certain patient groups for whom EmbryoScope may be recommended:
- Women or couples who produce multiple embryos during IVF treatment.
- Women or couples who have experienced recurring implantation failure during IVF treatment.
- Women or couples who have experienced recurring miscarriage.
- Women of advanced maternal age.
There are no additional risks involved for the mother nor to any baby born as a result of using EmbryoScope.
What are the benefits of EmbryoScope?
It is a personal decision whether or not to add Embryoscope to your IVF treatment. For some patients, particularly patients with multiple embryos, it might be more beneficial. If it is something you are considering, it is important to understand the benefits of this additional cost in order to make an informed decision.
- Round-the-clock monitoring: The traditional method of monitoring embryos involved removing the embryos from the incubator and examining them under a microscope. Although it allowed clinical technicians to monitor embryonic development, they were only able to capture data from a single moment in time. This meant that crucial developmental abnormalities may not be spotted when they initially occur, and the many other changes could be missed. One of the key advantages of EmbryoScope is that embryologists can see minute-by-minute changes as they happen.
- Improved embryo selection: Crucial developmental changes captured by EmbryoScope’s time-lapse cameras can be closely observed by technicians minute by minute, which is priceless when it comes to selecting the healthiest embryos for transfer. The technology allows us to learn about your embryos by identifying patterns of developmental changes that are linked to either positive or negative outcomes. They can also help to decide the optimum time for implantation based on an embryo’s development.
- Undisturbed environment for embryos: During standard IVF treatment, embryos are carefully removed at set times from micro-incubators for developmental monitoring. Clinicians can only remove embryos for a short time in order to avoid causing any potential damage by outside environmental factors. With EmbryoScope, there is a constant stream of data available providing invaluable information for clinicians, removing the need for those precious embryos to spend any time outside of their carefully controlled environment.
- An example of cutting-edge assisted reproductive technology: IVI was a key collaborator in the development of EmbryoScope technology. As a result, any improvements, developments or advances to this technology are implemented exclusively throughout our clinics. With the help of EmbryoScope, we see precisely when cell division occurs. By collecting and analysing this data, we have been able to develop a mathematical model to identify specific division times and appropriate morphological changes that can contribute to a 15 to 20 per cent better chance of implantation occurring.
- Increases implantation and pregnancy rates: Embryoscope is a cutting-edge technology, which means there have been fewer opportunities to carry out controlled studies to scientifically prove its benefits. However, positive outcomes have been widely recorded. One study revealed a pregnancy rate of 54% when using EmbryoScope, compared to 45% when using a conventional embryo incubator. These results show a significant shift towards higher pregnancy rates with Embryoscope. As we mentioned earlier, Embryoscope cannot change the way an embryo develops. However, it can identify the healthiest embryo based on its developmental changes, reduce the number of implantation failures, and allow the healthiest embryo to have the best possible chance of developing into an ongoing pregnancy.
Why is EmbryoScope considered as a ‘treatment add-on’?
Unlike IVF with decades of data to draw from, EmbryoScope is still a relatively new technology. This means it will take some time for studies to gather enough scientific evidence to clinically prove it has a positive impact on pregnancy rates.
At the current time, a limited number of studies have been carried out and some of the data is unclear. Until there is more evidence available, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) classifies the use of EmbryoScope as a treatment add-on – that is, it’s not an essential part of IVF treatment and is usually charged separately. The HFEA highlight that initial research has shown promise into improving pregnancy outcomes, but the limited number of randomised control trials have shown conflicting results.
Anecdotal evidence, while scientifically less robust, is a better barometer of success for many couples, especially if they are part of a patient group in which Embryoscope is specifically recommended. Individual clinics are likely to have their own clinical data which detail success rates when using the EmbryoScope.
At IVI London, we can guide you through the IVF process and assess whether using Embryoscope is beneficial for you based on your individual circumstances. In some cases, it may not be beneficial. For example, the ability to monitor multiple embryos may be an unnecessary expense if you produce fewer embryos, such as one or two, per cycle.
We hope that by understanding the benefits of EmbryoScope and how it works, it will help you make an informed decision when it comes to incorporating it into your IVF treatment. It is always best to speak to a specialist, so please get in touch with our friendly team if you would like to learn more. We will always be on hand to ensure you feel comfortable and confident with your treatment and your medical team.
Get in touch with us today and find out how we can help you on your fertility journey.