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What every patient needs to know about the IVF lab where we grow and safeguard your precious embryos.
Senior Embryologist, Malpani Infertility Clinic
The IVF Lab
The IVF lab is the heart of an IVF clinic because this is where we grow and safeguard your precious embryos. The IVF lab equipment and the skills of embryologist play a very crucial role in IVF treatment, but most IVF patients are clueless about what happens in the lab. Let me take you behind the scenes, so you can get a peek as to what the embryologist does in the IVF lab.
Why should you bother ?
Not only is it very important for IVF patients to do their research, so they can understand which of the many modern assisted reproductive technologies available today are best for them - they also need to select the best IVF clinic to maximise their chances of success ! The clinic can be only as good as the lab is - so in order to judge the competence of the lab, you need to do some homework for yourself !
THE IVF LABORATORY
Embryos are very delicate and they need to be pampered to ensure they grow well in the lab. The lab should use disposable plastic ware to grow your embryos; and high quality culture medium, so your embryos can grow happily in the incubator.
Embryos don't have a defense system, and are vulnerable to toxic influences such as microbes, contaminants, dust, particles and volatile organic compounds in the air. This is why it is critical that the IVF lab implement preventive measures which protect your embryos.
You need to find out how well equipped the lab is. Do they have backups in case of equipment failure ? What happens if there is a power failure ? Do they have an alert system in case the incubator malfunctions ?
How many incubators do they have? This will determine how many embryos can be placed in a single incubator at one time. Placing the embryos of too many patients in one incubator is not a good idea, because every time the door of the incubator is opened, the temperature and pH of the culture medium gets disturbed; and it takes time for re-equilibration. Each of these perturbations insults the embryos and affects their growth.
Read more- Quality Control in the IVF Laboratory
Some More Considerations
How clean is the air in the lab ? Do they have air purifiers ? Laminar flow ? Air filtration is critical as the embryos are sensitive to microbes, particles and VOCs.
The microscopes and laminar flow workstation need to have stage warmers. This is because temperature maintenance is very critical . Eggs and embryos are sensitive to cold shock, which is why all procedures should be performed at body temperature (37 C)
Do they routinely take photos of embryos and provide them to patients ?
Far more important than all the hardware, is the peopleware. How good is the embryologist who will be taking care of your embryos. Is he experienced ? expert ? available full time ? Some IVF clinics rely on travelling embryologist for performing IVF procedures.
The visiting embryologist just performs the procedure and then leaves. This means there is no expert available in the IVF lab to check how well your embryos are growing. Most of these labs are not able to offer advanced procedures such as Day 5 ( blastocyst transfers) or vitrification, because they do not have a full-time embryologist.
Here's what our IVF lab looks like.
We have 2 Air purifiers in our IVF Lab. These are photocatalyst air purifiers with a Bioantibody filter, which not only filters VOCs, but microbes as well
We are obsessive about quality control; and document all procedures scrupulously. Since I am the only embryologist in the lab, I am very hands-on, and carefully control each step of the delicate process personally. I am very experienced, because I do not make use of any juniors or assistants, and do everything myself !