When choosing an infertility clinic, we tend to focus on the infertility doctors, the ancillary services the clinic offers, such as counseling or acupuncture, and even the ease of parking. While these are all important, perhaps the most important thing you should consider is the IVF lab since this lab is responsible for the most important part of IVF–the embryo.
8 Ways to Tell if the Lab at Your Fertility Clinic Good Enough to Get You Pregnant
- An infertility clinic may have several laboratories, including an IVF lab, an andrology lab, and an endocrinology lab. The andrology and endocrinology lab must be certified as compliant with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) regulations (CLIA’88), and the IVF lab should be accredited by one of the following: College of American Pathologists/American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations or New York State Tissue Bank. If not listed on their website, you can ask or check the bottom of their Clinic Summary Report on their IVF statistics as maintained on the SART website.
- The Director of the lab should be certified as a High Complexity Laboratory Director (HCLD) or American Board of Bioanalysis Embryology Laboratory Director (ABB- ELD). As of 2006 this certification is required of all lab directors, but even directors that were grandfathered in are strongly encouraged to become certified. Ask if the HCLD is on site, and if not, how often is she is on site.
- Check the infertility clinic’s IVF success rates maintained by SART for your age group. These statistics are also listed on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, but the SART website is more current.
- Check the SART IVF success statistics for the average number of embryos transferred per cycle. Best practice is to transfer fewer embryos, and you want a lab that is able to grow embryos well enough to allow doctors the ability to transfer only one.
- Ask about the ability of the lab to do embryo biopsies and chromosomal screening. Do they routinely perform the biopsies on Day 3 or Day 5 embryos? You will have to decide whether you want to screen your embryos (check out the Creating a Family radio show on the Pros and Cons of Genetic Screening), but you want a lab that is able to perform this screening.
- Does the laboratory use the vitrification method of cryopreservation? This method of freezing embryos and eggs has revolutionized success rates for frozen embryo transfers and the use of frozen eggs.
- Ask the clinic to explain their standard operating procedure for chain of custody of sperm, eggs, and embryos—both fresh and frozen. You should be able to feel confident that all steps are taken to ensure that you get the right embryos and gametes.
- Ask the Reproductive Endocrinologist what how he communicates with the lab, and ask him to explain what will happen in the lab. Open communication and respect is crucial for success.