Embryology practitioners are individuals who create human embryos in an Embryology Facility using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The best known embryology practitioner, Sir. Robert Edwards, PhD, was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2010.
Embryology practitioners perform essential parts of the IVF treatment cycle: IVF itself ICSI, Assisted Hatching, embryo culture, cryopreservation and thawing, embryo biopsy and all other embryology procedures.
In addition to embryology practitioners performing technical tasks, there are Reproductive Embryologists with the knowledge and expertise to connect embryological observations with the patient’s history and laboratory tests. They decide the parameters and duration of embryo culture, which embryos are worth transferring into the uterus and which ones no longer have a chance to continue development, whether to apply an Assisted Hatching, when and how to freeze embryos or oocytes, whether to use ICSI or conventional insemination and many other practical questions. They help the fertility doctor to determine the most promising strategy of achieving a healthy pregnancy. For example, their input contributes to the decision of, when it is time to transfer embryos into the uterus and how many or whether the genetic testing of embryos is indicated – decisions which will not only affect the chance of pregnancy but also the chance of multiple pregnancies and thus indirectly the health of the children born as a result of the IVF treatment.
Because of the complexity of reproductive embryology procedures, the embryology practitioner’s occupation demands a high level of knowledge and expertise.
Therefore the choice of the embryology practitioner is very important, particularly because embryology procedures are the most costly portion of an IVF cycle.
Patients are entitled to expect that the best embryology practitioner is providing care for their embryos. However, because there are no national standards of embryology training or credentialing, there is a vast variation in expertise between embryology practitioners practicing at different clinics.
To help patients in selecting a clinic with the most qualified embryology practitioners, the ACE – American College of Embryology – EMBCOL has launched the “Know Thy Embryologist” campaign.
EMBCOL recommends the following basic embryology due diligence when selecting a fertility clinic:
Fertility clinic which has a highly qualified embryology practitioner on staff will usually profile him or her along side of fertility doctors. If you don’t see the embryology practitioner’s name and credentials on the web site, we recommend that you ask.
Ask about the workload for embryology practitioners. If the embryology practitioner is overworked, the chance of errors increases, while the quality suffers. American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends: 2 practitioners for up to 150 cycles a year, 3 practitioners for up to 300 cycles a year, 4 practitioners for up to 600 cycles a year and an additional practitioner for each 200 additional cycles.