Choosing the Best IVF Clinic: Protecting Your Embryo's Future

The whole point of an IVF clinic is to create good-quality embryos so that when we transfer them into your uterus they will become healthy babies.

However, many IVF laboratories are not well equipped enough to create good-quality embryos, and this is true for a number of reasons. Thus, many IVF clinics are designed to extract revenue from patients, rather than to get them pregnant. They batch their patients and depend on imported expertise in order to do the IVF cycle. Thus, an IVF specialist flies down for 2 or 3 days to do the procedures, and an embryologist comes into the lab every few weeks in order to fertilize the eggs.

Now this is obviously not optimal for your embryos, because this kind of episodic care is never going to be what is needed to achieve high pregnancy rates! Please select a lab that has a full-time qualified embryologist – and an IVF clinic where the doctor has their own IVF lab and does not borrow the lab facilities of another IVF clinic to do your procedures. This may be more convenient for you, but will result in a much lower success rate because the success rates of a full-time IVF specialist who has their own facilities are going to be much better than a gynecologist who does just a handful of IVF procedures in a month just to earn more money!

Many IVF labs are not maintained properly and don’t have adequate quality control measures. Yes, it’s true for patients to judge the quality of a lab because these clinics will refuse to show you what goes on inside their laboratory, and will make all kinds of tall claims about the fancy equipment and AI-powered technology they use, but many of these are just tall marketing claims designed to lure patients and take them for a ride.

There are many red flags that should cause you to worry about what the IVF lab is doing, because while a good lab can make good-quality embryos, a bad lab can kill your embryos with far more ease! Thus, if the IVF doctor does not provide you with photographs of your embryos; or does not routinely culture all embryos to Day 5 ( blastocyst); or does not offer single embryo transfers electively to all their patients, these are all causes for concern. This means that the doctor really doesn't have enough confidence in their IVF lab, which is why they are taking all kinds of shortcuts to compensate for this. One way of doing this is to put back many embryos together or to transfer embryos on Day 3, rather than wait to grow them to Day 5. You need to learn to read between the lines, and the only way to do this is by understanding what a good lab does so that you can identify what a bad lab does. A bad lab will not do what a good lab does, and this is obviously not going to be good either for your embryos or for your chances of getting pregnant.

It’s true that some doctors will take offense when you ask them too many questions, but these are typically the bad doctors - the ones who have something to hide. Good doctors are quite happy to encourage questions from their patients, because they are confident about the quality of care they provide, and are happy to document this and be open and transparent about what they are doing.

Bad labs have many different ways of killing your embryos. Thus, if the incubator is not kept at the right temperature; or they use an old expired culture medium to cut costs; or if they don't bother to quality control their equipment; or if there is an infection in the laboratory because of contamination; or if the embryologist is clumsy and ends up killing all your eggs while doing ICSI.

The problem is that you will never find out the truth when this happens, because the doctor will do his best to cover up reality. This is why you should proactively demand that the doctor shares a treatment plan with you in advance, and if the clinic does not provide photographs of embryos routinely and proactively to all their patients, then please do not take treatment at the clinic, no matter how cheap it is, and how much you love your gynecologist, because in the long run, this will turn out to be much more expensive for you

Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.