Its extremely important that IVF clinics routinely document and provide photographs of the embryos they make to their patients.

I often see patients who have failed IVF cycles elsewhere. These patients are confused , depressed and despondent because they are not sure what to do next. They come to me for a second opinion , looking for expert guidance.

The first question I ask them is - Can you please show me photographs of your embryos ?

A lot of them look very surprised when I ask them this question and I get lots of answers .

I didn't know we could see photos of our embryos .
I did not know our doctor was supposed to give these to us.
The commonest response is - My doctor didn't give me any . This can be extremely frustrating.

It's extremely important that IVF clinics routinely document and provide photographs of the embryos they make to their patients. The only tangible an IVF clinic can deliver is an embryo - and in fact the job of a good IVF clinic is to make good quality embryos ! After making the embryo and transferring this into the uterus , whether it will implant and become a baby is outside the doctor's control . However , making good-quality embryos is something which a good IVF clinic can definitely do - and should take pride in doing so ! Some patients answer - My doctor told me my embryos were very good - and I trusted my doctor . Yes, of course you trust your doctor - and our patients trust us too. Yet we routinely give them photos of their embryos - and this is good for us , and for them as well.

Seeing their own embryos can be an emotional highpoint for patients. They are happy that their reproductive system works well enough to make good-quality embryos. IVF patients are often depressed and unhappy because they're infertile and feel their bodies are defective. Once they see their embryos, their confidence gets a boost. They can now see light at the end of the tunnel - and they understand that it's then just a matter of time till one of those embryos will implant and become a baby. Equally importantly , it gives patients the confidence that they've received good quality medical care . Even if the cycle fails , the patient does not feel that the treatment wasn't done properly, and it's easier for them to take the failure in their stride. . They have the maturity to be able to understand that some things are not in the doctors control or in their hands. Even if the cycle fails , they are happy they have received good care, and this gives them invaluable peace of mind . And if the cycle succeeds, these photos are a great way of starting your baby's album !

Documenting good-quality embryos is very good for the doctor as well. It increases the patient's confidence levels in the doctor's skills. The patient can see that the doctor is being open , honest and transparent , and is confident of his technical skills, which is why he's giving them photos of embryos, which they can show to other doctors if they want a second opinion.

IVF patients go to an obstetrician when they get pregnant ; or to another IVF clinic , in case the cycle
fails . If the IVF clinic documents the fact that it has made good-quality embryos , other doctors understand that this is a good IVF clinic, which is providing high quality medical care, which is good for the reputation of the clinic within the medical fraternity as well.

If there are no photos , then other doctors ( and the patient herself) will wonder about the competence of the lab ? Do they have anything to hide ? Even if these are poor quality embryos, this should be documented , so that the doctor can use this information to tweak the treatment protocol for the next cycle, so as to improve the patient's chances of success

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

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