How are Technological Advancements in IVF Treatments Breaking Social Taboos?

Vinesh Gadhia, Chief Operating Officer, Nova IVI Fertility Nova IVI Fertility is India’s leading chain of fertility clinics for IVF treatment specializing in Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI),Vitrification, Laser Assisted Hatching, and Genetic Diagnostics

Forty years ago on 25th July 1978, Louise Brown, the first baby in the world was born through IVF. Today, IVF is a routine medical treatment offering hope to childless parents around the globe. New technologies have opened-up new possibilities for therapeutic advances which have significantly increased the success rate of IVF treatment for both men and women.

There used to be a time when infertility was deemed as a matter of social disgrace and humiliation. Childless couples were subjected to severe social stigma along with emotional harassment. However, in the present time, the advancements in IVF treatment have slowly been changing the way infertility is perceived in the country. Couples, who are infertile, today have plenty of options to cure their inability to conceive naturally. Thanks to the latest developments in medical equipment and technology, more and more childless couples are adopting IVF treatments and breaking the shackles of social taboo associated with infertility.

Infertility is a genuine and growing health concern in India, today. Though the subject has been long kept under covers and has not been discussed openly, creating awareness about this important health aspect and the available treatment options are crucial.It is essential that people are aware about fertility health, as this in turn will help break the misconception of infertility, thereby providing a ray of hope for several childless couples.

Concurrent with these advancements in IVF has been the emergence of related technologies, such as pre-genetic embryo testing and oocyte preservation, which potentially have broad applications to both fertile and infertile couples. Infertility currently affects about 10-14 percent of Indian population, with higher rates in urban areas where one out of six couples get impacted. In today’s fast-paced life and hectic work schedules, stress is a by-product affecting the fertility health of several couples in the reproductive age. Infertility is officially a lifestyle disease, but one that is
not limited to urban areas and women alone, though this has long been the misconception. Today, out of the 10-15 percent of infertile couples who are actively seeking children in India - only one percent have sought IVF treatment, so far. Having said this, we are observing a slow, but steady change of perception underway and the IVF market in India is growing fast with a projected growth rate of 21 percent CAGR. With a significant increase in awareness levels and an increase in demand for IVF treatments, several key developments have been implemented in advanced infertility treatment options.

"Our mission remains the same, to give childless couples an opportunity to eventually hold their healthy,happy baby in their arms"

IVF(In-Vitro fertilisation)and ICSI(Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) which fall under Assisted Reproductive Technology(ART) techniques have long been the most sought after treatment options. They have become an invaluable tool for overcoming many types of male factor infertility. Poor sperm quality is the leading cause of infertility. It is particularly useful in detecting conditions of male infertility - if a man has a very low sperm count, poor morphology, or if his sperm has difficulty penetrating the egg to achieve fertilization.

Technologies like blastocyst culture, Magnetic Activated Cell Sorting (MACS)and reproductive genetics like Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS),Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis(PGD), and Endometrial Receptivity Array(ERA), have helped to increase the success rate of IVF treatments by a significant percentage.

This is a semen preparation technique that involves the magnetic separation of healthy sperms from the apoptotic ones, which have lower fertility potential. Apoptosis (programmed cell death)is a regulation process of the cell cycle which may occur during spermatogenesis(the process of development of sperm cells),thereby causing cell damages such as sperm DNA fragmentation and is known to be an effective method to treat male infertility.

PGS is used to screen embryos chromosomal normality. It can identify whether an embryo has too many or too few chromosomes. Many cases of pregnancy loss are due to chromosomal abnormality, so this PGS can often help when a woman has suffered multiple unexplained miscarriages. It can also reduce the chance of having a baby with a serious genetic disorder. PGS allows screening for chromosomal abnormalities in embryos during an IVF cycle. All 23 chromosomes are analysed using PGS in order to detect aneuploidies (alterations in the number of chromosomes), which are the leading cause of miscarriages and recurrent implantation failure.

Time lapse
The time lapse embryoscope takes a picture of the embryo at a rate of one every five minutes. The photos are then put together into a time-lapse film that gives the embryologist a chance to watch and monitor the embryo’s divisions and development on a constant basis, while it remains in the ideal environment of the incubator. Advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence can be used to identify patterns in the way embryos develop, and suggest the specific timings of cell divisions which can be used to predict the potential viability of the embryo.

Today, scientists around the world are continuing the journey that started a long time ago. The boundaries of what is possible with IVF and infertility treatments are constantly evolving. Our mission remains the same,to give childless couples an opportunity to eventually hold their healthy, happy baby in their arms.