I began my career in Embryology back in 1995 at Kings College Hospital in London, but I have been the Principal Embryologist at the South West Centre for Reproductive Medicine for quite some time now, joining the team in 2004.
A day in the life of an Embryologist
A typical day starts with opening up the laboratory. This is where sperm, eggs and embryos are kept during patient’s treatment. The first thing we do is check all of the equipment to make sure everything is working correctly. We then check how the embryos have developed over night and we ring the patients to give them an update.
Next is to deal with the patients coming in for treatment that day; this might involve egg collections, sperm preparations for treatments and patients coming in for embryo transfer.
We have a special time-lapse incubator called an embryoscope that uses time-lapse cinematography to take images of the embryos every ten minutes, which then forms a video we can use to really assess the embryos development very closely. This helps us to pinpoint the best embryo for transfer into the patient which we think will give the patient the best chances of a pregnancy.
(Two-day old embryo)
(Five-day old Blastocyst)
We are also trying really hard to only replace one embryo in the majority of our patients to try and reduce the multiple birth rates which is the biggest risk factor of IVF treatment.
Procedures are very intricate and need to be done at certain times. The mornings are typically very busy, checking fertilisation, ringing patients, collecting eggs and sperm.
In the afternoon we perform a specialist micromanipulation procedure called Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) where we inject a single sperm into patient eggs – a successful treatment for male factor infertility. We also freeze patient’s embryos using a fast freeze method called vitrification which enables us to store patient’s spare embryos for future treatment cycles.
Embryos are very small, smaller than a full stop on a page in fact, so we use microscopes to look and manipulate them.
At the end of the day, we check that all of the treatments have been completed and everything required for the next day has been set up, check all of the equipment and shut down the lab for the day.
There are huge amounts of regulations and a code of practice that we must follow. A large part of my job is completing paperwork and audits, but it is the laboratory work that I love.
I am incredibly proud of the IVF laboratory. It never ceases to amaze me that the ball of cells we see in the lab can develop into a healthy baby. It is a truly wonderful job and through our expertise we can help our patients fulfil their dream of having a family.
I have been involved in the creation of hundreds of babies over the years which really is quite mind-blowing!
Sally is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Reproductive Science, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.