Labelling Dishes And Avoiding Mix Ups

The embryologists carefully label, check and recheck all the items of equipment that house your eggs, sperm and embryos to make sure that there's no possibility of mix-ups and you don't end up with the wrong embryos. Couples sometimes worry about mix-ups, but you can rest assured that the systems in place in Australian IVF labs to avoid mix-ups are extremely stringent.

Australian IVF clinics have to follow the Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee's Code of Practice in order to be licensed (you can read more about these licensing requirements in Chapter 4). This code states that:

The organisation shall ensure that gametes, embryos and patients are correctly identified and matched at all times.

That's why the clinic staff check your name and date of birth over and over again at every step of the treatment process. Although your doctor and other staff know very well who you are, such name checking and double-checking is extremely important to avoid mix-ups.

Mix-ups and the media

Occasionally you see reports in the media of mix-ups in IVF labs. Mostly these mix-ups happen because staff fail to follow basic procedures like checking a woman's name before transferring the embryos. Several such cases have made the headlines in recent years:

i In the United States a woman gave birth to a little boy who subsequently turned out to be the genetic child of another couple who attended the clinic at the same time.

i In the United Kingdom a white couple and a black couple were treated in a clinic at the same time. The white woman subsequently gave birth to mixed-race twins and genetic testing showed that while she was their biological mother, her eggs had been fertilised incorrectly with sperm from the black man.

i A young Japanese woman was mistakenly implanted with the embryo of a 40-year-old woman. The young woman became pregnant but had to have an abortion because the foetus didn't develop properly and it was then revealed that the wrong embryo had been transferred.

Events like these are certainly tragic, but you need to put them in perspective: Of the millions of IVF cycles performed worldwide every year, a mix-up is a rare event, occurring only once every couple of years or so.

Preparing Your Eggs and Sperm

Before your eggs and sperm can finally meet, the embryologist has to prepare them to maximise the chances of a successful union. Eggs need to be perfectly mature and sperm 'cleaned up' before the two are introduced: Embryologists are meticulous in doing everything they can to facilitate the process of fertilisation and embryo development.

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