How many times has your mother told you to keep the oven door closed while the bread is baking? Well, it turns out your mom’s good old-fashioned advice applied to all sorts of buns in the oven.
New research from Newcastle University in England indicates that a woman has a 27 percent greater chance of becoming pregnant if new enclosed incubators are used during the processing of her embryos during in vitro fertilization. By keeping the temperature more constant and more closely mimicking the conditions of a mother’s womb during the few days between fertilization and implantation, the survival of the embryos is greatly increased. In other words, someone figured out a better way to keep the oven door shut on those precious baby buns.
According to the most recent data from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the nationwide percentage of live births resulting from fresh embryos in women under age 35 was about 42 percent. For women age 35 to 40, the ratio dropped to 27 percent. An increased success rate of the sort found in the English study would raise the percentage of live births in the older group to more than 34 percent, and the younger group to over 53 percent. That would give many women better than even odds of having a baby from their first cycle of IVF.
With higher success rates, fertility clinics would be able to implant fewer embryos during each cycle. This would reduce the chance of multiple births which carry with them a number of risks, including premature labor, low birth weight, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
The impact of this breakthrough, however, cannot be measured simply by statistics. Although embryos are in the lab for only three to five days before they are implanted or frozen, the parents of these new lives are often already emotionally connected.
The flip side of success is loss. When I underwent IVF, five of my eight embryos failed to grow properly and were lost during those first days. With much prayer and deliberation, we decided to implant all three remaining embryos together, but I lost one more a couple of weeks later. Although I was still pregnant with twins, the losses to me were as real as any mother’s when she knows she is pregnant and miscarries. An increased success rate may have meant fewer of my embryos would have died.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. Researchers are continually working to improve reproductive technology and produce conditions that more closely resemble the miracle of natural conception. Perhaps one of the doctors involved in this study owes his mother a debt of thanks for her wise words: “Shut that door!”