Let’s face it: deciding on a fertility clinic is arguably one of the most crucial decisions you will make when realizing you may need to grow your family using Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). If your search is just getting started, there are likely countless questions you are considering. Do you know the quality of the IVF lab and how they manage your eggs, sperm, and embryos should be at the top of that list? 

It may have been an afterthought, but the IVF laboratory is where the ART procedures happen. Starting treatment with any clinic involves an initial consultation, diagnostic evaluation, and some kind of ovarian monitoring or stimulation. All of these things are necessary to facilitate the fertilization of an egg(s) and sperm in vitro or the collection of these delicate cells for attempting fertilization in the IVF laboratory. And the way the laboratory collects, tracks, manages, and stores these hard-earned cells is critical to IVF success.

Questions to ask about your clinic's IVF lab

Remember, it is more than okay to ask questions to vet your clinic and inquire how your eggs, sperm, or embryos are cared for at every stage of development and storage. Here are some other questions you should consider asking: 

doctor taking clinical notes

1. What is the live birth rate? 

How many patients undergoing IVF cycles in a clinic end up with a baby? The answer can be found via the CDC website or on FertilityIQ, but the data available is not always current (it takes time to gather all of the outcome data from previous cycles). More recent data can be uncovered during your initial consultation. You will want to ensure the clinic is experienced and has results comparable to the national average.

2. What is the level of training and number of daily lab procedures?

In addition to your fertility doctor and nurses, the embryologists are critical members of your IVF care team. They are responsible for all aspects of the care and handling of your eggs, sperm, and embryos, as well as performing procedures such as Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), vitrification, and embryo biopsies for pre-implantation genetic testing (PGT). 

In other words, embryologists are the go-to people responsible for the safe handling and care of your precious cells. Ensuring they have vast amounts of experience and that the clinic has an adequate number of staff for the volume of procedures performed can help to ease your mind about choosing that clinic.

technician at a fertility lab

3. What is the fertilization rate, with and without ICSI?

The fertilization rate (the percentage of how many eggs fertilize per cycle) can indicate how well the lab handles eggs and sperm. Understanding, of course, that not all clinics treat the same kinds of patients, SART.org's Detailed Clinic Summary Report can be a helpful resource to help you compare results between clinics. The creation, growth, management, and storage of embryos in an IVF laboratory requires embryologists with extraordinary amounts of training, skill, and access to the best available technologies.

4. How does the lab store embryos long-term?

In the coming decades, many millions of babies will be born through IVF. But despite the rapid growth and demand for ART the tools that many fertility clinics use to manage frozen eggs and embryos have remained largely unchanged since IVF started more than 40 years ago. 

That is why TMRW Life Sciences created the first-ever platform that automates and manages specimens throughout the cryostorage process. TMRW standardized how eggs and embryos are identified and tracked, providing a digital chain of custody so that humans, and their potential for error, are minimized in the process.

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Tara Comonte, CEO of TMRW Life Sciences, puts it like this: “None of us used to ask how our frozen eggs or embryos were managed and were unaware of how manual and archaic the systems have been until this point. Today, patients and clinicians demand innovation to make the whole process safer, more transparent, and more accurate. TMRW has met the rapidly growing need by designing integrated technologies that modernize specimen management. Innovation is core to the fertility industry's future, and we are proud to lead the way."

fertility specialist consulting with a couple

5. How can I be sure the best technology available is used during the management and care of my treatment cycle?

Gathering information in advance about the clinic, its reputation, and its outcomes is a great way to start. Make sure to speak with your clinician about the treatments they recommend, the pros and cons of alternatives, and how they keep you and your precious eggs, sperm, and embryos safe. Ask your clinician how they ensure you have the best chance at taking home a baby. Many clinics are using previously frozen eggs or embryos as part of their proposed treatment plans: ask them if they are using TMRW’s FDA-cleared technology to manage and track all the frozen specimens. Asking questions (and getting satisfying answers) is the only way to get the peace of mind you need and deserve to start your family-building journey using ART.

Lindsey Williams is a library worker and writer who lives in Arizona with her husband and their dog, Peaches. After 5 years of trying to conceive with dual-factor infertility, she is currently expecting her first child conceived with the help of IVF.