With almost 1 in 6 couples having difficulty conceiving many are turning to advanced reproductive techniques such as IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) to help them get pregnant. Yet, IVF failures may sometimes occur. Infertility is defined as having 12 months of regular, unprotected sex and failing to become pregnant. For women over 35, this time frame is reduced to six months instead of 12.
Couples attending a fertility clinic undergo a number of medical investigations in order to determine the cause of infertility. In approximately 40% of cases, the cause is attributed to a female factor. In another 40% of cases, it's attributed to male factors. In the remaining 20% of cases the cause many remain unclear and this is classified as ‘unexplained fertility.’
With the help of IVF, many couples achieve their dreams of becoming pregnant. Recent data indicates that over 8 million babies have been born worldwide as a result of IVF and Advanced Reproductive Techniques.
However, for some, despite numerous attempts at IVF, success never becomes a reality. Why is this? How can the same techniques work for some and not others?
For some couples, IVF failure occurs very early in their IVF treatment when the eggs and sperm fail to form a fertilized embryo. Even after applying advanced techniques such as ICSI (Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection), whereby a sperm cell is injected into each egg, fertilization may not occur at all or may occur at very low levels.
When a sperm meets an egg it triggers a process called ‘Egg Activation’ which initiates a chain reaction leading to fertilization and embryo development. If an egg doesn’t activate then it won’t develop into an embryo or a fetus.
Artificial Activation of Eggs
Research shows that Egg Activation is caused by the release of Calcium from an internal reservoir inside each egg. This process is stimulated in the lab using a chemical called Calcium Ionophore.
In 2017 a meta-analysis was published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine*. It concluded that Artificial Activation of Eggs with Calcium Ionophore treatment after intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) results in a statistically significant improvement in fertilization, cleavage, blastulation, and implantation rates, as well as overall pregnancy and live-birth rates.
The results demonstrated that the use of Calcium ionophore is reassuring and promising, particularly for couples for whom ICSI alone yields poor or zero fertilization rates.
Egg Activation at ReproMed
In 2018, ReproMed began to offer this new technique to couples who had previously experienced failure to fertilise following ICSI. In all cases, fertilisation and embryo development were achieved. At ReproMed we believe that this promising new technique could offer hope to many patients. The fact that it is a relatively simple and non-invasive technique is very reassuring.
This technique is still considered experimental and is offered to patients who meet strict criteria for its use.
If you would like to discuss your case with one of our medical team, please contact us to arrange an appointment.
*Fertil Steril 2017; 108:468–82. 2017 by American Society for Reproductive Medicine.