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What goes on behind the scenes in a fertility clinic?

Healthcare Science Week 2021 – an annual celebration of the many aspects of healthcare science, 5-14 March this year – includes local input from Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine (BCRM) with an invitation for members of the public to find out about the fascinating work done by the fertility specialists who help create viable embryos to be used in IVF. 

The embryology team plans to share user-friendly information about the work they do, along with three staff profiles ranging from the most junior to the most senior, and will end with a live-streamed ‘Meet the scientists’ question-and-answer session on Friday 12 March. 

Their aim is to shed light on the vital behind-the-scenes work done in the embryology lab – “the engine room of the clinic” – where embryos are created and frozen for use by patients hoping to have a baby through IVF. 

Event organiser and senior embryologist, Jen Nisbett, said: “For the roughly one in seven heterosexual couples experiencing some kind of fertility issues, and any same-sex couples hoping to start a family using IVF, the insights we are offering into the work we do may come as a real revelation. 

“We plan to show how we freeze blastocysts – that is 5-6 day-old embryos – and will also be sharing some amazing time-lapse images of embryos. 

“Our thaw survival rates and pregnancy rates following frozen blastocyst transfer is one of the things that we are most proud of at BCRM, and our embryologists have worked really hard to develop an excellent system for successfully cryopreserving and warming blastocysts.  

“Over 97% of blastocysts survive the process with pregnancy rates statistically above the national average which is a huge achievement and testament to the skill of our team.” 

For patients of BCRM, the team’s success rate means that patients who wish to defer their embryo transfer without compromising their chances of success can do so – very important both for those with health issues that mean they should postpone pregnancy, and also for couples who wish to use frozen embryos to allow them to have more than one treatment attempt to achieve a pregnancy, possibly to give them younger siblings for their first IVF baby. 

Members of the public are invited to sign up for the virtual ‘Meet the Scientists’ event, to be held online at 6.30pm on Friday 12 March. All are welcome to attend this free event, which will include a virtual tour of the lab, but pre-registration is required here: zoom.us/webinar/register

Participants will be able to submit general questions in advance, and the session will close with a live Q&A. 

BCRM helps people with fertility problems for the NHS as well as private clients. More on BCRM here: fertilitybristol.com/ 

Main image: Embryologist Corinna Gibbons at work in the BCRM lab 

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