Having a healthy, normal baby is a dream for every expectant couple, but all are not lucky enough. Some unfortunate ones may have babies with chromosomal abnormalities. Advanced medical technology has come up with ways of identifying cases with high risks. Specialized screening tests enable them check out chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo and take requisite action.
A typical IVF treatment cycle uses pre-implantation genetic screening test for this purpose. Embryo biopsy is a part of this screening that distinguishes between healthy embryos and normal ones. Before a couple opts for embryo biopsy, they need to understand all about the procedure. Weighing its risks and benefits can help them arrive at the decision whether the test is justified or not.
All about Embryo Biopsy
Embryo biopsy is an extremely delicate procedure, during which a few cells are extracted from the embryo for genetic testing. Depending upon the protocol followed by the IVF clinic, either of the two types of embryo biopsy is used:
- Blastomere Biopsy is carried out on the cleavage stage (day 3) embryo. At this stage, the embryo has eight cells, out of which 1-2 are removed for screening.
- Trophectoderm Biopsy is done on the blastocyst stage (day 5) embryo. The embryo has by now divided into a large number of cells, out of which 4-5 are safely taken for testing.
Either of the ways, embryo biopsy involves opening up of the zona pellucida to remove the cells. This can be done mechanically, chemically or with laser, the last one being the safest. Once retrieved, the embryonic cells are sent for genetic assessment, while the embryo is preserved until the results are available.
Embryonic testing involves comprehensive chromosomal screening, a test which evaluates the chromosomal status of the embryo. An embryo with an incorrect number of chromosomes is classified an aneuploid and deemed unfit for transfer. On the other hand, the normal ones can be used for completing the IVF cycle or frozen for later use. Embryo biopsy and genetic screening is recommended for women at high risk of having chromosomally abnormal babies. It is prescribed in the following cases:
- Women of advanced maternal age
- Those with the history of recurrent miscarriages
- Those who have already had a chromosomally abnormal pregnancy
- Those who have been through multiple failed IVF treatment cycle
Even though embryo biopsy is a must for such women, they need to realize the significance as well as risks and benefits of the procedure.
Benefits and Risks of Embryo Biopsy during IVF
Embryo biopsy coupled with comprehensive chromosomal screening is regarded as a vital link in the IVF treatment cycle for some specialized cases. The benefits of the process are many.
- Knowing all about embryo genetics can dramatically improve the chances of IVF success. It is so because the test enables the specialist separate the healthy embryos and only consider these for transfer; the probability of implantation is the maximum for such embryos.
- With embryo biopsy and screening, women in their forties have equally good chances of genetically normal singleton pregnancies as their younger counterparts.
- It enables selective transfer of a single, healthy embryo so that the probability of multiple pregnancies is eliminated. As a result, the woman is likely to have full term pregnancy without any complications prevalent in multiple pregnancies.
- Embryo biopsy and genetic screening enables the embryologists to separate the abnormal embryos and discard them. Such embryos are neither used for IVF nor frozen. There is no need to invest money and effort in preserving such embryos which are not going to yield healthy babies in future.
While there are several benefits associated with embryo biopsy, the procedure is not entirely risk-free. The biggest risk is related to embryo damage during micromanipulation. Logically speaking, a normal embryo may get damaged when cells are extracted from it during the biopsy.
The temperature and pH drift during the biopsy may harm the embryo further. So the process may actually do more harm than good. Also, the embryologist requires a great degree of skill and precision to perform the biopsy safely. The accuracy of the test matters too as a false report could make a couple discard healthy embryos without any reason or choose an abnormal one for transfer.
The patients should thoroughly weigh the risks and benefits of embryo biopsy to decide whether the procedure is actually worth the effort. An expert IVF specialist can guide and counsel them with the decision making. If a couple does require embryo biopsy during IVF, they must trust only the best IVF centre with qualified and competent embryologists. Alternatives such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling may be considered if the doctor does not deem embryo biopsy safe for a patient. The option of donor or sperms is the best in cases where the risk of genetic abnormalities is extremely high.
Gaudium IVF is amongst the top IVF clinic in India where patients are given advanced infertility treatment and gynecological care at affordable costs. The clinic’s expert team also offers counseling and support for pregnant women to enable them to have healthy and safe pregnancy.
Visit here for free second opinion from Dr Manika Khanna, the best infertility specialist in Delhi.