Fertility and pregnancy * Healthy living

New IVF method improves pregnancy rate by a quarter

New IVF method improves pregnancy rate by a quarter Embryos checked in closed and controlled environment

A new way of processing embryos during IVF treatment can increase the chance of pregnancy by more than a quarter, according to new research.

Usually IVF embryos are cultured in incubators for several days before being placed in a woman's womb, under strictly controlled conditions.

However, in order to check on the growth of the embryos under a microscope, the scientists have to remove them from the incubators, exposing the delicate embryos to a change in environment which may be harmful.

To get around this, a team of fertility experts at the Newcastle Fertility Centre have designed a series of interlinked incubators and microscopes which mean that all the procedures can be carried out within one enclosed and controlled environment.

IVF pregnancy rates increased from 32 and 35 per cent per IVF session under the old system to 45 per cent using the new equipment. This represented an increase of 27 per cent in the pregnancy rate, the researchers said.

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, included women aged 37 or less, undergoing their first cycle of IVF or intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

Professor Mary Herbert, who led the research team at Newcastle Fertility Centre, said: "Our aim was to keep eggs and embryos in conditions similar to those they would experience naturally - inside a woman's body.

"This led our team to design and develop a system in which it is possible to perform all of the technical procedures while maintaining stable conditions throughout the IVF process.”

Professor Alison Murdoch, head of clinical sciences at the Centre, said: “Growing good embryos is the key to IVF success and everyone, even those who have a very small prospect of success, deserve to have the best possible chance.

"Since installing this new technology over 850 babies have now been born."

Clare Lewis-Jones, chief executive of Infertility Network UK, said: "We welcome this initial study and we will be following its progress with interest.

"Women who have to undergo IVF naturally want the best possible chance of having a child and any new developments which improve IVF success rates are most definitely to be welcomed."

Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life (Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) is based at the Centre for Life in Newcastle. Most couples can be treated on the NHS by referral from the GP, but the clinic also takes private patients.

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the development agency, One North East.

This article was published on Thu 1 March 2012

Image © Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

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