Calculating IVF Risks in Advance

Among the many couples who want to become parents, a percentage of them seek assistive reproductive technologies to make their dreams of parenthood a reality. And among those would-be parents, there are some for whom in-vitro fertilization comes with a greater risk.

Centers that provide assistive reproductive technologies for struggling couples also have the means to detect congenital disorders. Although many of these abnormalities cannot be avoided, let alone predicted, the number of diagnosable conditions is growing. This technology is available n the local setting. The goal is simple: to make IVF successful in the Philippines.

For affected couples, the risk for the presence of genetic diseases in their children can be calculated prior to attempting to get pregnant. Women over 35 years of age should realize the risk associated with pregnancy at such an advanced age. For example, the chance of the baby born to an aging mother being affected with Down syndrome is dramatically increased.

Despite advances in research, diagnostics and treatment, there are still no guarantees that a child will be healthy and disease-free in all aspects of health. Testing for congenital disorders can only detect certain, often specific, abnormalities. These tests provide increased certainty, but it is never 100% absolute.

In IVF centers worldwide, including the Philippines, artificial insemination is the most common method for fertilizing oocytes. As soon as several eggs been fertilized in-vitro, the embryos are allowed to grow until day three, when they have eight cells. One or two cells are then very carefully removed from each embryo and genetic tests are performed.

Prior to transfer of the embryo, initial testing can be performed very early during IVF treatment. This is known as ‘pre-implantation genetic diagnosis’ (PGD), or ‘pre-implantation genetic screening’ (PGS). Patients who are at risk would benefit greatly from this phase of testing, since they can avoid aborting a pregnancy later during the term.

During PGD, chromosomes are examined for any changes in structure and quantity. This allows for the ability to know whether or not a gene is present that would later express an associated disease. Results are typically confirmed by day 5. Embryos with signs of abnormality are not transferred; normal embryos are transferred for implantation.

Removing one or two cells from an embryo at the eight-cell stage can be risky, however a majority of the embryos survive the procedure. The success rate of PGS is estimated at 95%.

Calculating the risks before becoming pregnant allows expectant parents to rest assured that, while nothing is guaranteed, they can some reassurance that their baby has a greater chance at a normal life.