Maximizing Your Chances of IVF Success (Part 2): Genetic Testing

Jennifer "Jay" Palumbo

IVF mom of two and infertility advocate

Historically, the clinic only had the option of “fresh IVF cycles.” This is when a woman’s eggs are retrieved and fertilized using the partner’s (or a donor’s) sperm. The resulting embryos are left to develop over two to five days and closely monitored.

One to two embryos (based on your doctor’s recommendation) are then transferred back into the intended mother or gestational carrier’s uterus. Whether it’s a “day three” or “day five” transfer (meaning three to five days after the retrieval) is determined by the doctor. Any embryos not transferred can be vitrified (frozen) for the future.

Now, however, more clinics are suggesting what is known as a “freeze-all” cycle. The difference is that instead of transferring a fresh embryo, the embryos are immediately frozen. This can help create a positive outcome for your IVF cycle. Below, we explain why!

Vitrification And Genetic Testing

Thanks to vitrification, the technology for embryo freezing has advanced tremendously since the days of slow freezing. Slow freezing would create ice crystals. Vitrification stops this from occurring, which not only protects the embryo as it freezes, but as it is “defrosted” to be transferred.

There are two genetic tests that can now be performed on a patient’s embryos. They are Pre-implantation Genetic Testing for Monogenic Diseases (PGT-M) and Pre-implantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidy (PGT-A). PGT-M is for those patients who may be carriers or who have a genetic condition or those who have a family history of a specific genetic condition like Huntington’s Disease, Tay-Sachs, or Cystic Fibrosis.

While PGT-M is considered necessary, PGT-A is typically considered more optional.  It is for those undergoing IVF who are interested in learning the correct number of chromosomes in their embryos. These embryos are considered “euploid,” meaning they have a normal number of chromosomes. These embryos typically have a lower chance of miscarriage and a higher rate of implantation.

Whether your doctor recommends PGT-A or PGT-M, this will entail taking a biopsy of the embryos. This is done at what is known as the “blastocyst stage”. The embryos will then be frozen after the biopsy. Once the status of the embryo has been confirmed, and a report is given to your doctor, it will determine which embryos to transfer.

It’s worth noting that genetic testing is typically not covered by your insurance. While costs can range, it’s usually around three-thousand dollars. To determine if it’s worth adding to your cycle, you should speak to a reproductive endocrinologist about your family building goals, your health, your family history, and anything in your fertility journey that includes pregnancy loss or any formal infertility diagnosis.

The Outcome

While genetic testing can be costly, it can, in the long run, potentially save you some heartbreak. If you’ve had a series of pregnancy losses, knowing that you’re transferring a healthy embryo, which has a lower risk of miscarriage, can offer peace of mind.

Particularly if you know you have a condition in your family that you do not want your children to have to endure, PGT-M can screen for it.

Ultimately, this is something you need to talk to your partner about and review with your fertility doctor. As you work through this process and learn more about your options, please know GoStork will be with you along the way to support you with any resources you need!

Read more from this series:

Maximizing Your Chances of IVF Success (Part 1): IVF Stimulation