Guest Post by Darlene Davies, BS TS (ABB)
After nearly two decades as an embryologist, I get to witness the magic that happens in the lab every day, and I believe that patients are just as interested in the biology of their embryos as I am! Here are some things that I want you to know.
Embryology labs adhere to strict guidelines, are regularly inspected and are constantly researching statistics on what procedures are the most successful. We are governed by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and we report our statistics to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), which partners with the Centers for Disease Control. Much research has been done on how many embryos to transfer, what type of culture system works best, and what checkpoints embryos must meet to ensure the best possible outcome. We follow rules like keeping the lights dim and limiting the embryo’s exposure to ambient air. We check pH, and every surface is temperature regulated. The media is formulated to mimic the human body. It goes through an external and then internal Quality Control before use. The embryology lab is also very structured on the timing of their procedures to ensure consistency.
IVF patients should hold their lab to a high standard, but what they may not know is that the embryologists are not just lab technicians following a procedure manual. Although embryologists are rule followers by nature, we are also much more invested than you may think. I have worked in three labs and have consulted in some more, so I have met many embryologists. We are a small community dedicated to research, and we meet regularly to learn as much as we can from each other. I can tell you that every embryologist I have met has a heart of gold. We understand the gravity of what we are doing on a daily basis. We know that we are carrying your hopes and dreams in our hands, literally! In many cases, we ARE you. Many of us have struggled with infertility ourselves, and some of us are IVF patients. Embryologists get excited when we see a nice embryo or a positive beta. We are rooting for you, and we are invested in your success.
After working in the IVF lab for nineteen years, I am still amazed at what I see. I am still excited when I see embryos growing, and I love watching real time videos of embryos dividing. It’s just so fascinating! I concluded that if I am this excited about embryos after all this time, and after seeing all these cycles, patients must be interested in the growth of their embryos too. Of course they are! IVF patients have the unique benefit of seeing “their baby” from the cellular level, and I want to share this knowledge with all IVF patients. So, I created a webapp that unlocks daily updates on the growth and development of embryos.
If there is one message that I would like to convey to IVF patients is that the lab staff handles your embryos with so much care. Our base is science, but our actions are love and encouragement. You may not see the embryologists, but remember that we are doing absolutely everything we can to help make your dreams come true!
Darlene Davies, BS TS(ABB), started her career as a clinical embryologist in 2002 in Boston, MA with world renowned embryologists. The skill set she has developed serves as her foundation, filled with technical skill and passion for developmental biology. In a few short years, Darlene moved into a supervisory position at Fertility Centers of New England where she flourished as the leader of the IVF Lab for over 10 years and was a part of IVF history with the first baby born from the Embryoscope in the U.S. Today, Darlene is at The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services/UCONN Fertility in Farmington, CT.
Darlene has presented her research at numerous scientific meetings locally, nationally and internationally at Alpha, ASRM, New England Fertility Society, Resolve New England, and The Foundation for Reproductive Medicine. She has published articles in Alpha Scientists in Reproductive Medicine and OBGYN News.
Because Darlene has such a passion for embryology, in her spare time she has written blogs related to IVF and attends as many scientific meetings as she can. Most recently, Darlene became a member of the We Care coalition in CT to advocate for parentage reform.
Darlene has created the Embryo Grow webapp that gives the embryologist’s perspective on how embryos are graded embryos and what is looked for related to embryo development. The first of its kind, the Embryo Grow app brings the IVF lab to life and keeps patients involved in their care.
Darlene is constantly evolving to pursue a career of not only high laboratory standards but also of promotion of the embryology world. The lab is an unseen piece of fertility treatment that should be highlighted, and she will continue to try and push the IVF lab into the spotlight.