The future of fertility
DR MARY BIRDSALL — FERTILITY ASSOCIATES
Mary Birdsall has been with Fertility Associates for 21 years and has seen huge developments in that time. “The big changes have been the improvement in the chance of getting a baby. When I started there would be some months when we were lucky to get a 20% chance of having a baby on our IVF programme, and now our accepted key performance indicator sits at 50%.”
Mary says there have been big changes in acceptance too.
“We used to have women come in disguised because they were so ashamed that anyone would know they were doing IVF. So even though it’s still an incredibly hard journey, some of the shame levels are hopefully lower.”
The other huge change is the number of embryos transferred. “When we weren’t very good at IVF we tried to increase chances by putting lots of embryos back. More than 90% of women now choose to put one embryo back at a time.”
The past few years have brought big advancements in fertility technology. “Pre-implantation Genetic Testing is now possible for diseases where parents may know they are carrying a gene like cystic fibrosis.” But screening can also be used to check viability. “The most common reason for an embryo not turning into a baby is that it might not have the correct number of chromosomes, so we can now test embryos on around day five to sort them into some that have a decent chance and others which will definitely not result in a baby.”
And the future? Mary hopes the next hurdle they will overcome will be to help couples with no eggs or sperm.
“That’s the Holy Grail because every day we see people who have run out of eggs and we can’t help them aside from offering them donor eggs. That’s where I see our next huge challenge to overcome ... and that would be amazing!”