How to tell if your embryology lab is qualified.

Consider these eight questions you must ask your fertility clinic about its embryology lab to ensure your best chance for getting pregnant with IVF. This information should be available on the clinic website, the Clinic Summary Report on their IVF statistics as maintained on the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) website, or by asking.

  1. The laboratory 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Check the infertility clinic’s IVF success rates maintained by SART. These statistics are also listed on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, but the SART website is more current. Check the statistics for your age group.
  4. 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 that give doctors the option to transfer only one.
  5. Ask whether chromosomal screening of embryos is routine. You will have to decide whether you want to screen your embryos, but you want a lab that is able to perform this screening.
  6. 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 using frozen eggs.
  7. Ask the clinic to explain their standard operating procedure for chain of custody of sperm, eggs, and embryos—both fresh and frozen.
  8. Ask the Reproductive Endocrinologist how she/he communicates with the lab, and ask her/him to explain what will happen in the lab. Open communication and respect between the doctor and the embryology laboratory is crucial for success.
Image credit: These images came from a really excellent Beginner’s Guide to the Embryology Lab by Shady Grove Fertility.