You’ll come across many new things when starting a family through surrogacy. It’s a complicated process.
One of the least understood steps of the surrogacy process is embryo grading. And for good reason — it can be confusing and intimidating.
We’ve created this article to answer several of the biggest questions about embryo grading. We hope that, by the end, you have a better understanding of this medical process, as well as a release from any pressure it is causing you to feel.
While we are not medical professionals and cannot fulfill the required steps for IVF, American Surrogacy is a national surrogacy agency, and our specialists know all about the process. Contact us any time with additional questions about becoming intended parents or a surrogate.
What Is Embryo Grading?
Scientific advances in recent years have unlocked valuable information that would’ve been unimaginable even 10 or 20 years ago. The process in which an egg and sperm join together to form an embryo was previously unobservable. Today, we have great insight into how this takes place and can watch it happen. Embryo grading is an evaluation used by embryologists to analyze this process.
How Do Clinics Perform Embryo Grading?
Embryo grading takes place post-fertilization. Once the eggs have been extracted from the intended mother or donor and the sperm has been injected into the eggs, the period of embryo grading can begin.
While the embryo waits in an incubator, clinicians will observe it and look for specific cellular developments, particularly from days 3-5 of fertilization. Based on what they see (or don’t see), they will assign an embryo grade, which will factor into whether or not the embryo is used in the IVF process or is frozen.
What Gives an Embryo a Good Grade?
Embryologists are typically looking for several things from days 3-5 of the incubation process:
- Cell Count and Multiplication: Between days 3-5, the observed number of cells should move from around eight to as many as 150 or more. This growth is a positive sign that an embryo is developing properly.
- Stabilization: Embryos that show stable structure, including symmetrical growth, are believed by some clinics to be more likely to result in successful pregnancies. However, clinics differ on this point. For some, simply seeing sustained growth is all that’s required, while others want to see symmetrical growth.
- Fragmentation: Haphazard development, on the other hand, is a negative sign. An embryo growing without clear structure and organization will likely be graded lower.
The caveat here, as we have already noted, is that embryo grading is still new to the medical community. Common standards are not always agreed upon. Each clinic uses its own system to score results, while some clinics do not take part in the practice at all. One may place a very high emphasis on symmetry, while another’s grading metric might prioritize cell count.
This means the same embryo could receive very different grades from two different clinics. We’ll explore what this means about your embryo grade below.
What Impact Does Embryo Grading Have on Success Rate?
Due to the complicated nature of grading and the different procedures used from clinic to clinic, it is nearly impossible to say what effect the grade an embryo receives has on the success rate of the transfer.
Generally speaking, embryos with an abundance of desired qualities — exponential cell growth, stable structures, etc. — will receive higher grades and are believed to have a better chance in resulting in a successful pregnancy.
However, the science is not exact. Embryos with high grades can still result in failed pregnancies, and vice-versa for embryos that receive lower grades.
So, Why Does Embryo Grading Matter?
While even highly graded embryos can result in a failed pregnancy, this practice can be very useful at catching a failing embryo before the IVF process. There are some embryos that, by day five, are clearly heading down the wrong path.
Embryo grading can be a useful tool for embryologists to determine the best candidates for IVF. But, it is only one tool in the toolbox. There are other factors to determine the likely success rate of embryo transfers.
When you’re an intended parent, it can be disappointing to hear that your embryo has received a low grade from the clinic. But, this shouldn’t be taken as devastating news. Grades are not final says. And, even if the grade is too low to move forward with that embryo, there will be alternative routes as you continue to pursue your dreams of parenthood.
Where does that leave you?
You’ll want to use all available medical technologies at your disposal during this process, but you shouldn’t stake your hopes on a single grade. Trust the professionals leading you on your journey, and take heart. Challenges will arise during this process, but the end of the road is the beginning of your family.
If you have more questions about the surrogacy process, or are interested in starting the process with our agency, let’s talk. You can contact us online at any time or call us at 1-800-875-BABY (2229).