Laboratory interventions are often manual and so you want to be sure your laboratory’s embryologists are seasoned. Here is one example of how fertilization rates (and pregnancy rates) are impacted by embryologists’ experience in the first year of training:
Many clinics show you the biography of their head embryologist, but most likely someone else will be handling your case. We find going to LinkedIn and searching for that laboratory’s embryologists is a good way to learn who is in the lab. To do this, type in the clinic’s name, and then click “Filter By People” and under “Title” type in “Embryologist.” Below is an example of outputs for Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.
Here is what to look for: a master’s (or higher) degree in hard sciences, many years of laboratory experience and plenty of time in your clinic’s laboratory (see an example below). Many laboratories have high employee turnover, which is disruptive to the system and can impact your results.
Many clinics track the performance of each embryologist and if you are fearful procedures like ICSI or PGS biopsy will be handled by of the poorer performers, you may consider asking if the work be divided amongst two embryologists.
When your clinic is doing cycles with patients, the lab should be open and working seven days a week. To do this reliably a clinic must have multiple embryologists available on any given day. This matters because you need to have your embryos transferred when the endometrium is most susceptible to implantation, not when the embryologists happen to be in town. In this Danish laboratory study below, Sundays are taken off and therefore good Day 5 embryos must wait to be transferred on Day 6. This led to far worse outcomes for patients.
That said, laboratories do need time to recalibrate their equipment and it is hard to know how much disruption this causes. We suggest ensuring your cycle does not occur while the laboratory is doing any routine maintenance.
Many believe if the laboratory is open, it’s best to have at least two embryologists working. That’s because many labs’ procedures require that identification checks on patient material is always double checked by a second embryologist.
Additionally, you want your eggs, sperm, and embryos to be at a laboratory that is “busy” but not “overloaded.” We generally hear that a good “yearly cycles-to-embryologist ratio” lies somewhere between 150-to-1 to 200-to-1. Less and the embryologists are not in practice. More and they are likely overwhelmed.
By our estimation over 30% of US clinics are in zones threatened by natural disaster. Post-hurricane in 2005, flooding in one major NYC laboratory required other clinics to help rescue samples. Ensure your clinic has a disaster recovery plan that includes real-time monitoring systems to indicate when equipment begins to fail, and an uninterrupted power supply if power gets severed.