Leaving the incubator

Clinics vary in how long they wait before transferring your embryos after egg collection. Some clinics do the transfer two or three days after egg collection, whereas others culture the embryos for five days until they reach the blastocyst stage, which is when the embryos have 60 to 100 cells. Most clinics do a bit of both, depending on the number and quality of embryos available. Your doctor can advise about your clinic's policy for timing of embryo transfer and explain the pros and cons of each approach.

Opinions are divided about the best time for embryo transfer:

^ Advocates of day two to three transfer argue that the environment in the uterus is superior to even the best lab environment and that an embryo's chance of survival is better the sooner it's transferred to the uterus.

^ Supporters of blastocyst transfer believe that by waiting longer you avoid transferring embryos that don't have a really good potential to continue to grow into a healthy baby.

The bottom line is that the number of embryos available for transfer is higher if the transfer is done on day two or three than on day five, but the chance of survival for each individual embryo is lower on day two or three than on day five.

According to the National Perinatal Statistics Unit, which collects and compiles data from all IVF clinics in Australia and New Zealand, blastocyst transfer is gaining in popularity and, in 2006, 27 per cent of all embryo transfers were blastocyst transfers (up from 14 per cent in 2002).

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