Assisted reproductive technologies like intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), donor conception (sperm, egg, or embryos), surrogacy, or any combination of building a family can feel like a tricky balance between science and hope. Prospective parents must navigate through realms of medical terminologies, technologies, and possibilities they probably have never considered before while balancing their desire (and, likely, processing emotions like shock, grief, and more) to have children. 

In recent years, the genetic testing of embryos has been quickly evolving, providing insights into embryo health that empower prospective parents with knowledge, understanding, and the ability to advocate for their future child(ren). The more you know about the test and the resulting score will embolden you with more insight into whether they are the right decisions for you and your growing family. 

What is PGT-P testing?

PGT-P, or Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Polygenic Risk, is a genetic screening technique used during IVF. By biopsying each embryo, PGT-P testing can help determine the potential risks for various adult-onset conditions. A non-diagnostic estimate is provided of the embryo’s risk of developing an adult-onset, polygenic condition by examining the combination of specific genetic variants. 

PGT-P can provide an additional way to triage and rank euploid (normal) embryos. This testing is helpful for patients who are expected to have multiple embryos to select from. It is also useful when intended parents are creating embryos with donor gametes since those cycles are expected to produce more embryos, and family history information is dependent on what the donor shares. 

By analyzing the genome of each embryo, PGT-P testing provides valuable information about the estimated risks for polygenic conditions like diabetes, cancers, schizophrenia, and heart disease. This enables intended parents and their care teams to make informed decisions about which embryo(s) to transfer during IVF. 

What is an Embryo Health Score?

The Embryo Health Score is used to help determine which embryo has a lower chance of certain conditions compared to other embryos from the same IVF cycle. This testing looks at multiple variants along the genome to assess this risk. It’s distinct from other PGT technologies that have come before it because instead of focusing on a particular genetic issue, like extra or missing chromosomes (PGT-A) or single-gene mutations causing genetic disease (PGT-M), it looks at an extensive spectrum of disease, with more variation in the hereditary component.

The Embryo Health Score takes all of the risk calculations for polygenic conditions and puts them into one score. For prospective parents and care providers, this offers a bird’s eye view of comparing embryos to one another to see which has the best score. For example, if someone has five embryos, the Embryo Health Score can determine that Embryo #3 has the best score and lowest risks and prioritizes this embryo for transfer. 

Patients receive a report that ranks the embryos in order from least potential risk to greatest potential polygenic condition risk, including an overall report as well as a more specific risk report for conditions. 

The Embryo Health Score is a tool that empowers prospective parents to compare embryos with each other. It can be used in embryos created with donor gametes as long as there is DNA from the gamete source.

This score is a calculation based on the presence or absence of multiple variations all along the genome. The score is provided in embryos that are euploid; aneuploid embryos (embryos with an abnormal number of chromosomes) do not get a score. 

After the many struggles and uncertainties that many of us have been through during the infertility path, receiving an Embryo Health Score in combination with PGT-P testing can provide some reassurance and a sense of control that is often lost during the process. 

The benefits of PGT-P testing during IVF 

Your embryo health score can be a powerful tool for advocacy during the IVF process, empowering you to have meaningful conversations with your family and care team. This can include whether to transfer, as well as potential future treatment options.

By understanding the implications of your embryo health score, you become an advocate for your own fertility journey and make decisions that properly align with your family’s values and goals.

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How to know if an Embryo Health Score is right for you

If you are already including PGT-A in your IVF plan and are concerned about certain risks for polygenic conditions based on your personal or family history, then it’s definitely worth asking your fertility specialist about PGT-P testing by LifeView. Once you connect with your doctor about your desire to receive an Embryo Health Score, a client specialist will work closely with your care team to address your specific needs. 

Once embryos are produced through an IVF cycle, a small sample from each embryo will be sent for analysis, and a report with your results will be sent directly to your physician. Genetic Counselors are always available to discuss your report further, so don’t hesitate to ask any questions that may arise

While PGT-P testing may not be for everyone, if you are concerned about polygenic conditions in addition to PGT-A testing during IVF, an Embryo Health Score by LifeView can arm you with additional knowledge, enhance decision-making, and provide a more straightforward path toward achieving your dream of a healthy child. Your Embryo Health Score is not just a number: It represents hope, potential, and the scientific advancements that make possible what feels impossible. The path to parenthood has challenges but supplied with these tools, advocacy, and the right care team, your family can navigate it with more confidence. 

Kristin Diversi is a writer and versatile creative. She is passionate about reproductive health and justice and lives in Longmont, Colorado, with her husband and their son.