Louise Brown the first IVF child conceived is now an adult and a mother. So much has changed since her conception and birth – and yet so much has stayed the same. When it comes to human reproduction and medical science the physicians and scientists have been able to help couples conceive children through incredible break through in reproductive medicine – but the one thing that they have not been able to crack is how to “fix” an egg that is not working properly.
Until very recently – it has often been an educated guessing game in trying to determine a healthy egg from one that is not viable. It is amazing to me, in all of these years as a fertility advocate and infertility coach guiding thousands of potential parents on their way to family – that I have seen almost every kind of break through there is – except helping women with aging eggs use her own eggs to have a child. After all, we have been able to take one single sperm and make a baby – but still – we cannot help a woman with eggs that are not healthy – become healthy enough to make a baby. That is rather incredible – isn’t it?
In fact, outside of checking ovarian reserve – and through various genetic tests – we have been very limited in our ability to even tell if an egg is normal or not. This lack of ability to truly look inside a seemingly normal egg and know if it is a viable egg has held back the science of egg freezing and up until now – has made egg freezing a hit and miss game for women. Because even though they were freezing eggs…how did they know that they were freezing normal eggs that would actually have the potential to make a baby? The truth is…they didn’t. And that is why many commercial egg freezing banks insisted that women freeze as many as twenty eggs – because they didn’t know what kind of eggs that they were freezing! The eggs could be normal – or not. They had no way of knowing. But now – there are several takes on a new technology often known as Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH) and sometimes known as Array CGH and CCS or Comprehensive Chromosome Screening.
In essence, this relatively new DNA test determine which eggs are chromosomally normal (euploid). It’s well established that, barring other compromising medical factors or male infertility, it is euploid eggs that are most likely to yield chromosomally sound embryos and they are the ones most likely to develop into healthy babies.
CGH (and it’s close cousins aCGH and CCS) is a delicate and complex test that screens the full complement of chromosomes in each egg. Sometimes, the doctors do the testing on embryos created through IVF – and then either bank or transfer only the healthy ones. This is an incredible break through for especially for older women who can now test and bank her embryos until she has enough for a healthy transfer.