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Entry #19: Creating Embryos

Updated: Jan 23, 2021


The first call from my clinic. The moment had come. Edie was booked in for the following day for egg retrieval. It was really happening. In 24 hours from now, I would be the recipient of all the eggs which would be retrieved. Deep down, I was hoping for a large number of eggs to be retrieved. I know the science and I’ve read up on the attrition rate of eggs and embryos. In order to start my family, I know the more eggs that are retrieved the higher the number of viable embryos I will have potentially created by the end, and therefore the more transfer opportunities, if not the possibility of a full sibling journey in the future. The clock begins on the embryo creation countdown.

Sunday - Day 0

The second call from the clinic. This time to tell me that Edie had attended the clinic in the morning and to update me on how many eggs that had been retrieved. Nine eggs! I was the proud recipient of 9 fresh eggs which would be fertilised immediately with my defrosted sperm sample which had been frozen and quarantined last September. I was informed that I would be notified the following day on how many eggs had fertilised successfully. I will be honest, as pleased as I was with the 9 eggs retrieved, a small part of me had hoped for more. However, not always does quantity mean quality. It's better to have a low number of mature eggs than a larger quantity of eggs which are not well developed. An average of 80% of eggs retrieved will likely be mature. With this in mind, I was wishing hard for at least 7 eggs to be mature enough for fertilisation. And with an average of 80% of mature eggs fertilising, hopefully 5 of these would have fertilised by Day 1.

Monday - Day 1

The third call came. A total of 5 eggs had successfully fertilised and were now heading into the embryoscope. I had opted for this “add-on” service at the start of my consultation with the clinic. Whilst the service is currently rated “Amber” by the HFEA, meaning “there is conflicting evidence to show that an add-on can improve live birth rates, or that the add-on is safe for patients to use,” Initial research has shown some promise. In addition, I was also interested in the footage which this process provides. As part of this service, time-lapse imaging is used to help select the embryos most likely to develop into a baby.

In conventional IVF, an embryologist will check the developing embryos each day using a microscope. This process requires the embryos to be removed from their incubator for a brief period. The incubator mimics the physiological conditions of a woman’s body as closely as possible to provide an optimal environment for the embryos while they are in the IVF laboratory.

Time-lapse imaging allows the embryologist to take thousands of images of the embryos as they grow without having to remove them from the incubator, and in turn, potentially disturbing them. Not only does this mean the embryos do not have to be removed from the incubator, but it also allows the embryologist to get a continuous view of each embryo as it develops, rather than just viewing them once a day.

The next update from the clinic would come on day three of the embryo development process. For many, it's customary to name their eggs/embryos and I had given some thought to what I would name mine. As I was never a fan of Take That growing up, and neither was it really appropriate to use the Jackson 5 anymore, I settled on the Spice Girls. But before giving them all a name at this stage, I thought it best to wait a little longer to see how they develop.

Wednesday - Day 3

The fourth call came and all 5 embryos were progressing. 4 of the 5 eggs were of very good or “tip-top” quality, as was explained by the embryologist. The 5th was slightly behind in the race. Where they had expected the embryos to have split into 6 by this point in time, this one had only split into 4. However, they intended to progress with it onto day 5. So, Posh Spice was a little slow, but I was rooting for her all the way! The average number of embryos which make it to blastocys is somewhere between 30-50%, meaning I could be looking at 1-3 embryos by the end of this IVF cycle. The embryologist was clear that they would expect 40% of embryos to make it to blastocyst. This would mean 2 embryos by the end. Whilst this is tough to hear, I was quietly hoping that the result would be as good, if not better than this. Who am I to argue with the science.

Friday – Day 5

The fifth call came… but I missed it because my place of work is like a Faraday cage! The clinic called back later in the day to tell me that I had 1 blastocyst in the freezer. Baby Spice was on ice, The embryologist informed me that one other embryo was likely to be ready by day 6. Sporty Spice was still in the race. Two fertilised eggs were 50/50 whether they would make it to day 6 or not. Scary Spice and Ginger Spice were not out of the running just yet though! As for the fifth, slower embryo, Posh Spice had unfortunately arrested and not progressed passed day 3. The nervous wait continued.

Saturday – Day 6

The last call came. Sporty Spice had made it and she too was now in the freezer on ice. Scary Spice and Ginger Spice had unfortunately fallen out and were not strong enough to be frozen. This IVF cycle was over. From 9 eggs retrieved I now had 2 blastocysts in the bank ready for transfer. Whilst I was disappointed that I didn’t have more embryos to freeze, I must remind myself that just one embryo at the end of the cycle offers an excellent chance of starting my family, which is the goal I have had at heart from the start of this very process.

Baby Spice (Left) and Sporty Spice (Right)

The clinic side of things is now done for the time being but the wait for full membership of SUK continues. I've had time to reflect on my journey over the last few weeks and I can't quite believe how far I have come in such a short space of time. And whilst my dream my be some way off, I'm confident that I am much closer to it than ever before.

Until Next time, Keeping the Dad Dream alive!

Read more from my Dad.Be blog here

Follow me on Instagram @stephens_surrogacy_adventure


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