Two studies found that embryos deemed abnormal by IVF clinics can still develop into babies with no chromosomal abnormalities.
During reproductive treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryos identified as abnormal are typically discarded. However, new research has found that abnormal embryos can still result in healthy babies.
An embryo refers to the early stage of fetal development. During IVF, mature eggs are collected from the ovaries and are then fertilized by sperm in a laboratory. This creates a fertilized egg, also known as an embryo. The embryo is then transferred into a uterus in hopes of pregnancy occurring.
IVF often results in multiple embryos. Additionally, multiple embryos can be transferred to the woman, which is why the risk of a pregnancy with multiples is higher. But it’s common for embryos to be leftover or which are deemed unviable, which need to be discarded.
According to New Scientist, two separate studies have found that embryos most at risk of being discarded by IVF clinics can develop into babies with no chromosomal abnormalities, which occurs when there’s an extra chromosome or one is duplicated or deleted. This can result in conditions like Down Syndrome, Trisomy 18, and Klinefelter Syndrome.
The outcomes of these studies are important because it challenges current practices in most fertility clinics, The standard practice is to discard embryos that show any indication they may not be successful. The clinic can evaluate the health of embryos based on their shape, structure, and outcomes of genetic tests, and advise individuals what embryos are the least likely to result in a viable pregnancy.
In addition, this also means that people trying to get pregnant through IVF and other fertility methods may have more embryos to choose from, Jioforme explains. The more embryos, the better the chance of conception. And, if all of their embryos appear slightly abnormal, it provides reassurance that there’s still a good chance of a healthy pregnancy.
Not all unused embryos are discarded after IVF. In fact, there are plenty of options available to individuals with leftover embryos. It’s possible to save the embryos for a future cycle. Very Well Family notes that a frozen embryo transfer (FET) is often much less expensive than starting IVF fresh.
However, if you know your family is complete, it’s also possible to donate extra embryos to couples in need. This is often known as “embryo adoption,” and typically doesn’t result in financial compensation.
In other cases, some people donate their embryos to science where they will ultimately be destroyed during research. But others prefer to thaw and dispose of the embryos, even if they’re perfectly healthy. The fertility clinic or Cryobank can usually assist people with this.
The laws vary between different states (as well as countries) for how people can legally dispose of embryos. So, be sure to do your research. Also, weigh all the benefits and drawbacks, as not every option is right for everyone, especially embryo donation.
by ALEXANDRA SAKELLARIOU