• Slider-Image-in-vitro-fertilization
    Read the story of ASCP Patient Champion Emily and learn about the role
    the laboratory plays in the fertility treatment process.


Infertility is a condition that prevents natural reproduction. It can be caused by hormonal, anatomic, or pathologic conditions affecting the reproductive tract of men and women. Infertility can be diagnosed when a couple fails to conceive after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. It can also be diagnosed if a woman has been able to get pregnant but unable to carry a fetus to term. The underlying cause of infertility is 30% due to the male, 30% due to the female, and 30% combined or unknown. Infertility affects about 10-15% of people in the United States.



Educational Materials: Infertility


This is a picture of an embryo that is five days of development just before we would transfer it back to the patient. This is also the stage when embryo biopsies for genetic testing would occur. It is called a Blastocyst.


To increase your changes of fertilization, your doctor might prescribe you medication that increases the chances that you ovulate. Women need to ovulate in order to get pregnant through timed intercourse or insemination, so increasing your chance of ovulation with medication can be an option. Additionally, with IVF (see below), women typically take medication to increase the number of eggs they produce during one ovulation cycle so that as many eggs as possible can be harvested.



Semen wash is a process in which sperm is separated from the seminal fluid (semen). This enhances the fertilizing capacity of the sperm and is used prior to IUI or IVF (see below).



Intrauterine Insemination is a procedure in which sperm (either from a fresh sample or thawed from a frozen sample) is directly inserted into the uterus during ovulation. Prior to insemination, the woman is typically prescribed medication to increase the chances of success.



In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a process where an egg is fertilized via laboratory procedure outside of the body. After brief incubation, viable, fertilized eggs are implanted into the woman’s uterus. Typically, IVF has a 20 to 35 percent chance of success.



Surrogacy is when a third party is used to provide an individual or a couple with help in creating a family. This option can be useful when an individual wants to have a baby or when a couple is unable to create or sustain a pregnancy. Surrogacy can involve the use of someone else’s uterus, donor sperm, donor egg, or donor embryos.


Emily had always known she wanted to be a mother, and after she and her now-husband, Nate, married, her dream of starting a family became a real and exciting prospect. Yet, after three years, Emily was unable to become pregnant, and in vitro fertilization (IVF) looked to be the most viable route to make Emily and Nate’s dream a reality. After learning more about the process, the couple decided to give it a shot.

Having met while working as lab techs in Concord, New Hampshire, both Emily and Nate were familiar with the role the laboratory played in health care. But they didn’t realize just how important it would become in their own lives.

From the start, the laboratory was integral to Emily and Nate’s IVF journey, as it was necessary to monitor Emily’s hormone levels and required blood draws every two days.

After some preliminary tests and some failed attempts, the last two of Emily’s viable eggs were incubated, fertilized, and re-implanted into her body. Waiting to see if the implantation would be a success is one of the toughest and most exciting parts of the IVF process, Emily says, but the wait was worth it when she found out she was pregnant with twin girls.

Emily’s pregnancy was closely monitored through additional lab tests. Her daughters, Ella and Evie were born prematurely, at 24 weeks and six days. Although it is not uncommon for twins to be born prematurely, this was earlier than most cases of premature twins, making it a scary and uncertain time for Emily and Nate.



Today, Ella and Evie are happy, healthy and thriving, and Emily and Nate are thrilled with their family. Looking back on all they’ve endured, Emily advises others experiencing infertility to “not let a diagnosis get in the way of your dreams. Explore your options and consider them as seriously as your desire to make your ideal outcome happen.”

And the lab, Emily says, “is the foundation of your diagnosis. They are the magic behind the scenes and if it wasn’t for the lab, my girls wouldn’t be here.”

As lab techs, Emily and Nate knew the important role laboratories play in diagnoses, and used their knowledge to help them make a dream a reality.