IVF Laboratory Team
Our ability to grow embryos well, among other laboratory functions, is closely related to our willingness to evolve with change. Fifteen years ago, embryos were kept in the laboratory for up to 48 hours because we lacked the knowledge and technology for maintaining healthy embryos outside the body for longer periods of time. Today, embryos can routinely be maintained in the laboratory for 5, 6 or 7 days if necessary, with well-established standards of care.
Most of the activities inside the laboratory are intricately complex and can only be performed by highly trained individuals who specialize in embryology and andrology. Pacific Fertility Center is fortunate to have a large and experienced laboratory staff dedicated to the care and well being of eggs, embryos and sperm.
Additionally, at Pacific Fertility Center we take the security of the laboratory very seriously. We have developed a multi-step protocol, SurTransferSM, which ensures the safe and secure handling of eggs, sperm and embryos, and prevents even the possibility of a mix-up.
In Pacific Fertility Center's laboratory, 6 of our embryologists are licensed at the laboratory supervisor level and 2 are certified laboratory directors. This is above and beyond the level necessary for performing routine procedures, but we insist that all embryologists are licensed in their specialty as a requirement for working in our lab. You can be assured our team of embryologists is exceptional in experience, qualifications and dedication.
Learn more about our laboratory director.
What is an embryologist?
An embryologist is someone that is qualified and trained to care for human eggs, sperm and embryos. Their role in the IVF process is critical and they are heavily involved with the clinical staff in planning and organizing a patient's treatment. Patients being treated for infertility are discussed individually by the treating physician and the embryology team, so that the laboratory are always well informed on what procedures are being performed for each patient. As a general rule, all lab orders come to the embryologists at least 1 week before any treatment begins, but since modifications to treatment plans can happen at any time, good communication between the embryologists and the clinical team is maintained. One day before procedures begin, the embryologists begin preparing for the case. For an egg retrieval procedure for example, the embryologists will prepare petri dishes of culture media 24 hours ahead of time in preparation for receiving the eggs. This is typically the first step in the IVF process and it begins 1 day before the embryologist sees the patient. On the morning of the egg retrieval, the embryologist will briefly meet with the patient to confirm her ID before receiving the eggs in the laboratory. Once the eggs come into the laboratory, the patient will not see the embryologist again until they are having an embryo transfer, but the embryologists will supply the patients with regular updates on the progress of their eggs and embryos in the intervening days.
Once inside the laboratory, the embryologists maintain the eggs and resulting embryos under special conditions in the laboratory incubators. The eggs are inseminated with the appropriate sperm sample which is also handled and processed by the embryologists.
Subsequently, the embryologists observe and maintain the growing embryos for several days until the day of transfer. An important part of the embryologists' job is choosing which embryos from a group are actually transferred and which ones are frozen. At the time of embryo transfer, the embryologist will talk with the patient about the embryos and after the transfer is complete, freeze any surplus good quality embryos for future use.
In addition to these routine procedures, embryologists also perform many tasks that are required as part of a patients treatment. For example, the embryologist will sample the embryos for any patients having genetic testing on their embryos and ship the samples to the genetics lab for analysis. For patients with poor sperm quality, the embryologists will inject 1 sperm into each egg.
In short, any procedure that is required for eggs, sperm or embryos is performed by an embryologist. And, additionally, embryologists perform all their own administrative, clerical and custodial tasks since no other staff or service personnel have access to the laboratory.
What qualifications do embryologists have?
Every embryologist must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree (specifically with a major in biology) in order to be eligible for training. Practical training is given on the job, and typically takes 2 years. Once an individual has accumulated a total of 4 years on the job, they can apply for certification. In the US, the only organization that certifies embryologists is the American Board of Bioanalysts (ABB) in St. Louis. For certification, the individual must submit their credentials and training records for review by the Board. The Board will contact the schools which the applicant attended and the employer(s) where the individual trained and worked. If the board is satisfied that the education and training meet the requirements, the applicant becomes eligible to sit through some written examinations. At PFC, we require that embryologists become certified in Embryology and Andrology (that's 2 separate examinations). Individuals with a doctoral degree (at PFC we have 3), may additionally take examinations for the lab director qualification, if they have experience in management and supervision.
For more information concerning certification, click on the following links: