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New IVF treatment could result in couples having successful pregnancies

The ‘time-lapse’ technology can pinpoint the abnormalities in human embryos that cause IVF failure or miscarriage and raises live birth rates by 56 per cent.

DESCRIBED BY SCIENTISTS as one of the most significant breakthroughs in IVF technology, IVF time-lapse can deliver an uplift in birth rates of 56 per cent.

Development delays in an embryo at crucial stages can cause abnormalities in the embryo and may not result in a successful pregnancy. BeaconCARE Fertility’s Dr Simon Fisher and embryologist Alison Campbell say with the new time-lapse technology they can now predict whether an embryo has a low, medium or high chance of a live birth and “dramatically improves the chance of the embryologist selecting a normal viable embryo”. Alison Campbell said:

In conventional IVF laboratories, embryo development will be checked up to 6 times over a 5-day period. With time-lapse we have the ability to view more than 5000 images over the same time period to observe and measure more closely each stage of division and growth.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie Ms Cambell said that regular IVF treatment fails more than it succeeds, with couples going through multiple cycles at a high cost. Dr Simon Fisher said that data from the UK shows that couples needing fertility treatment, like IVF, is rising year on year.

Women having babies later in life

“There is a problem with fertility globally for a number of factors. One reason is that people are starting families later in life and when they are coming up against difficulties it can take up to two or three years to find out what the issue is. At that point the woman may be in her late thirties and the problems can be compounded,” he said.

Unlike other EU countries, Ireland provides no treatment for infertility on the public health service and insurance companies have no obligation to provide cover for infertility.

Dr Fisher added that Ireland has a particular problem as Ireland has the highest age at which women are becoming mothers in Europe. “Our drive is to make IVF treatment more efficient, more accessible and less expensive, so that couples can avail of treatment once and be successful,” he said.

IVF success rate only 25 per cent

Fiona McPhillips, who runs the infertility charity Pomegranate.ie, told TheJournal.ie that the new innovation sounded like a great tool, as now there is no way to determine “what embryos want to become babies”. She said:

The success rate for IVF treatment is just 25 per cent. Traditionally embryos are left to develop over three to five days and then they pick the best ones, the ones that have the most cells.

They look at them once a day, but that only tells the doctors how the embryo is doing at particular point in time. This advance would provide a lot more information as to why embryos are more likely to work.

Another major problem experienced by couples is that when IVF is unsuccessful there is no information as to why it did not work. This can be heartbreaking to couples, said Ms McPhillips.

“It can cost about €5000 per IVF cycle, with many couples going through three or four. Hopefully time-lapse technology will increase birth rates so that couples won’t have to go through endless cycles, paying out huge amounts and then not know why it has not worked. Any tool that can help couples to have babies or at least give them feedback as to why it was not successful is a huge advance for fertility treatment.

Read: Frozen – over fresh – embryos may improve IVF success>

Column: Infertility is not a choice – but treatment for it should be>

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