By Shaun Kelly, Laboratory Director
Once you have made the decision to embark upon fertility treatment you have made a major step in your life. Hopefully this is going to be the start of a journey leading to you creating a new life for you, but whatever happens there is probably going to be a long journey ahead of you.
It is very daunting embarking on some kind of fertility treatment, especially when so much of what happens to you is totally out of your control – you are at the mercy of your hormones and your body’s response to the medications that you will be taking. Still, you are involved all the way along, sometimes alone and sometimes with your partner. Each step of the way you get some feedback from the doctors and nurses regarding how things are going. You can’t always do anything about what is happening, but it is your body, and it is happening to you.
Then comes the day of the egg retrieval and your eggs are retrieved, the sperm is processed and everything vanishes into the laboratory. Our embryology laboratory here is run as a clean room, and has very restricted access, and even the andrology laboratory is a patient no-go area. All of this is to maintain the integrity of the space, but it means that you really don’t have a lot of information about what happens back there. What I am going to try to do is open the door a little for you and let you look inside.
We run a tight ship back there in the low level light conditions of the embryology laboratory, with all equipment being monitored constantly and top quality consumable items being utilized for all culturing. We also take utmost care and attention to your identity by writing your name not only on the dishes and tubes used during your treatment, but on the unique position that we use for your culturing in the incubator. To add another level on top of that we also utilized the IVF Witness system which allows us to add Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to all of the dishes used.
During the egg retrieval the doctor will utilize the same probe that was used for the monitoring scans to identify the follicles on the ovaries by guiding a needle through each follicle in turn while watching the action on the ultrasound screen. The follicles contain a fluid which is aspirated and that is what the embryologist examines to see if it contains an egg. Each egg that is located is taken from the follicular fluid and placed into the first of its culture dishes. At the end of the procedure the eggs then go through the hatchway and into the laboratory.
At some point during the morning we will also need to get some sperm, and so one of the laboratory staff will be on the search for your partner. Now this step is nowhere near as complicated or involved as what you have to go through to stimulate your ovaries and have the eggs retrieved, but it is just as important. It can also be quite embarrassing, but don’t worry; we will make it as easy as possible for him. No, there will not be anyone who is going to help him, although most fertility laboratory staff has been asked at some point – generally because the guy is trying to make a joke due to nerves. The cup does not need to be filled, and there isn’t really a time limit on how long you have in the room.
Some women ask if they can go in the room with their partner, and that is not a problem, but not always the best way to proceed. Let me tell you now, whatever you might think, this is something that he has done before and he very probably knows how to do it pretty well! We supply the porn, there will be lube – just let him have his dignity and go and get the job done on his own! Trust me, for the majority of guys that go in the room alone it generally happens a lot faster than when he takes his partner. This is not about being sexy, he doesn’t need a cheering squad, just some alone time.
I hope you enjoyed this first peek behind the laboratory door, we will be back with the next installment soon. If you have any comments of questions feel free to post below.