What does an Embryologist do?
Embryologists play a pivotal role in the fertility clinic. They are the scientists responsible for the handling and care of the patient's gametes and embryos. They work closely with the Fertility Doctors in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for their patients.
Becoming an Embryologist requires extensive theoretical and practical training, excellent hand-eye coordination and an extremely dedicated work ethic.
Following your initial consultation, your Doctor will decide on the most appropriate course of treatment. This may be timed sexual intercourse, IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilisation).
If the Doctor recommends an IVF cycle, this will require ovarian stimulation with hormones to facilitate the retrieval of multiple oocytes (‘eggs’) during one cycle. The Embryologists use highly magnified microscopes to search for and collect the oocytes from the follicular fluid retrieved at the time of the egg collection. The semen is also prepared within the laboratory to optimise the sperm parameters prior to insemination. If the oocytes fertilise, it is the role of the Embryologist to monitor their subsequent development and growth. Each embryo is individually assessed for quality (graded), and the Embryologist will keep their patients updated with how their embryos are progressing in the days leading up to embryo transfer or vitrification.
Further to a standard IVF cycle, there are optional additional treatments that may be offered to patients. These are referred to as treatment add-ons. Of these, there are a number that are specific to the laboratory. Clinics may charge an additional fee for these treatments and, in some cases, there may be little scientific evidence from high-quality randomised control trials to show that they improve the chances of having a baby. As such, the HFEA has developed a rating system to grade these treatment add-ons based on how effective they are at improving treatment outcomes.
These are add-ons listed below and grouped in their associated rating category.
Green: This add-on is effective at improving the treatment outcome
There are currently no treatment add-ons in this category
Amber: It is not clear whether this add-on is effective at improving the treatment outcome
- Elective freeze all cycles
- Hyaluronate enriched medium (e.g. Embryoglue)
Grey: We cannot rate the effectiveness of this add-on at improving the treatment outcome
- Assisted hatching
- Intracytoplasmic morphologic sperm injection (IMSI)
- Intrauterine culture
Black: This add-on has no effect on the treatment outcome
- Physiological intracytoplasmic sperm injection (PICSI)
- Time-lapse imaging
Red: There are potential safety concerns and/or this add-on may reduce treatment effectiveness
- Pre-implantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A)