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An essential part of the invitro fertilization process is the evaluation of the quality of developing embryos. But how can embryologists tell the quality of an embryo, and what does that mean for your chances of having a child?

These are great questions. To understand them, we need to take a step back. IVF has multiple steps. As part of the process, fertility specialists will retrieve eggs from the woman, and mix or inject sperm with the eggs. This step occurs under a strictly specific environment, including incubators, airflow monitors, room filters and more, which helps increase the chances of healthy fertilization.

Once the eggs are fertilized, which most, but not all, will be, they are incubated for 3-5 days. During this incubation, the embryos are carefully monitored by an embryologist. Embryos are given grades, based on quality. After three days, the embryos are ranked.

But what is the embryologist actually looking for? One thing that the fertility doctors will be watching for is fragmentation. This happens during cell division, and means that parts of the embryo break off and result in a fragmented embryo. While small amounts of fragmentation is normal, a higher level of fragmentation means a decreased chance of successful implantation.

fertility embryologisy utahAn embryologist will also monitor the number of cells in an embryo. After three days, a good embryo growing normally will have about 6-10 cells. The doctor will also look at how equal in size the different cells are.

After 3-5 days of incubation, the embryologist will help the patient decide which embryo or embryos to implant, based on what he or she has seen during monitoring.

Remember that this monitoring and grading of embryos doesn’t guarantee anything. There are many other factors that must be taken into account. For example, the receptivity of the uterus varies from woman to woman, and the transfer of the embryo is another important step that can have complications.

IVF is an intricate process, but is still the best and most successful way to fight infertility.