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IVF Failure and Success: Thought About Maria Chen's Article

Posted Jul 12 2011 12:00am
Major news sources including ABC, LA Times, Huffington Post and more all recently ran a news piece by Maria Chen discussing how despite all the advances in IVF treatments - the success rates remain low.

The article was mostly negative and focused heavily on the chromosomal abnormalities of embryos that can result in failed IVF cycles. Here is an excerpt from the article

"More than 30 years after the world's first test-tube baby was born and despite modest advances, scientists are still struggling to dramatically improve the odds for infertile couples trying to have children."

"Though new techniques have been introduced in recent years, in-vitro fertilization remains a costly, stressful process, with only about a 25 percent chance of success in most cases."

"'IVF isn't a perfect technology,' said Dr. James Grifo, director of the NYU Fertility Center. He was not connected to any of the studies presented in Stockholm. 'We're still limited by nature and most embryos in nature don't make babies,' he said.

"Even supposed breakthroughs like preimplantation genetic diagnosis, a test done to pick the best embryos, haven't panned out as scientists hoped. Doctors had assumed the test would improve pregnancy rates, but studies showed women who had their embryos tested were actually less likely to become pregnant — probably because scientists still can't accurately predict which embryos will succeed. "

Although what the author says in this article was correct, I felt that it was a bit misleading and rather discouraging to readers who may be facing IVF treatments themselves. Chromosomal abnormalities of embryos account for a significant part of failed IVF cases – the reason the experts in this article were stressing the importance improving the way that we can best choose healthy embryos for IVF cycles. However, it is estimated that perhaps more than 15% of all failed IVF cycles are actually due to maternal factors – not abnormalities of the embryos. 

Similar to organ transplant rejection sometimes the maternal immune system “rejects” the embryo. Therefore, finding ways to prevent this is just as important to improving IVF success rates as embryo screening. New research (discussed here ) suggests that there is a specific genotype which is associated with an increased risk of embryo rejection and possibly in the future the use of genetic screening could help better predict who would be likely candidates for a successful IVF treatment. 
By being able to identify who is at a high risk for a failed IVF physicians and healthcare providers could save their patients both the financial and emotional hardship of IVF failure.
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