IVF mix up

Did you read this story?

This is not the first mix-up during an IVF procedure.

Quick reminder for those just joining us, or who need a refresher: IVF is a procedure during which a woman’s eggs are fertilized by man’s sperm in a lab before the embryos are implanted into a woman’s uterus.

A few things before I get into this story:

First — My heart goes out to these families. After a long, hard road to creating their families, to have something like this shake up their realities is unimaginable and I cannot fathom all of the emotions they are trying to process.

But second: This story goes to something I think the general public forgets sometimes, and that’s the fact that there is still so much about the IVF process that hasn’t changed since I was born nearly 40 years ago.

In so many ways, the technology has simply not advanced, while in other ways it absolutely has.

What do I mean?

I mean that while equipment in certain parts of the lab has gotten better, and the protocols may have been refined over the years, these procedures are still done by people, and most of the infrastructure is the same as it has been for decades. Human error and process or equipment failure are is a very real factors.

Is that me excusing what happened? No.

But it is also something that has been very hard to account for, not just in the reproductive field. 

The needle is moving, however, with several companies working to improve transparency and safety within the reproductive field, so that a patient can personally check in on their embryo and ultimately have peace of mind.

TMRW Life Sciences is one of those companies.  They have built a technology solution that allocates a unique digital identifier for all patient’s eggs and embryos (instead of those tiny hand-written labels still used in the majority of labs today).  They then store those embryos in a secure automated freezer in the lab (which they refer to as a Cryorobot) and only take them out when it’s time for them to be used.  As well as working to ensure mix-ups can’t happen, the technology is always monitoring storage conditions, so that IVF clinics and patients can sleep at night knowing their precious eggs or embryos are safe.

It’s tragic that we continue to read these repeated stories of families suffering loss or emotional trauma in IVF.  But with millions of embryos now being stored by clinics, it’s perhaps not surprising that they’re struggling to keep up.  It’s time for a change and a better way, so that these never-events are banished to the history books once and for all.