Is my clinic transferring the right sperm or embryoQ: How do I know that my clinic is using my husband’s sperm or transferring the right embryo?

A: The staff at your clinic should be just as concerned about this question as you are. Clinics have numerous mechanisms in place to safeguard against mishaps like this. Some of these safeguards are obvious, and others operate in the background.

Here are some things you should look for:

  • Does the staff give you the impression that they are meticulous about accepting a semen sample? Oftentimes, “first impressions”are good indicators of how seriously a clinic takes this responsibility.
  • Do they require you to properly label the container and provide information about time and method of collection?
  • Do they have a “chain of custody” record to indicate who accepted the sample, delivered it to the lab, processed it, etc.?
  • Before any medical procedure, do the doctor and staff clearly confirm your name, birthdate, and what is being done? Have they answered all of your questions before proceeding?

Other behind-the-scenes precautions include:

  • All samples have at least two identifiers, such as name and ID number.
  • All patient samples, whether sperm, eggs, or embryos, should be separated from other patients’ samples by time and place. That means embryologists and lab staff only work with one patient’s material at a time. Tissue should be stored or incubated in a clearly designated space, separated from others.
  • Critical steps, such as insemination and embryo selection, should be confirmed by at least two technicians, and documented in writing.

Labs may have other safety measures in place, such as color coding, in addition to those above. The most important thing for you to do is to ask questions. Everyone at your clinic should be sensitive to your concerns. It is a huge responsibility and privilege for any clinic to help you build your family. You should have confidence in your clinic and its staff.

Answered by: Jeanne Walters, BS, ELD (ABB) –Director of Embryology Laboratory for RMA Philadelphia