Discovery may boost procedure's success rate

18:32, Sep 30 2012
A sperm is injected directly into an egg during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure.
IVF: A sperm is injected directly into an egg during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) at Novum clinic in Warsaw.

University of Otago researchers are developing a test that could significantly improve the success rate of women trying to get pregnant through IVF.

Research recently published in international journal Fertility and Sterility has shown positive results for a test determining the optimal time to implant a fertilised embryo through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Christchurch obstetrics and gynaecology researcher Dr Gloria Evans discovered key signs, known as biomarkers, which showed when a woman's uterus was "more favourable" for implantation.

If the signs were not present, the embryo could then be frozen until a cycle with more positive biomarkers was achieved.

Currently less than half of fertilised eggs implanted through IVF result in a pregnancy, with implantation failure - where a woman's uterus was not in an optimal state to receive a fertilised embryo - believed to be one of the most common causes.

“There's a huge amount of money spent on getting the embryo just right," Evans said.


"[But] there's no test, up to now, that tells us whether . . . it's going to implant."

The discovery could significantly improve the success rate for couples undergoing the emotional and expensive process of IVF, she said.

She now planned to work with Christchurch's Fertility Associates medical director Dr Greg Phillipson to confirm her findings with a larger sample of women.

"We've got some very exciting results so far, we just need to validate them with more numbers."

The larger study required the help of volunteers from Christchurch Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton, aged 20 to 37 who had experienced unexplained repeat miscarriage or IVF procedures without pregnancy occurring, or women who required treatment for poor ovulation.

The researchers also required volunteers who had experienced successful implantation and pregnancy to see how they differed from those requiring IVF.

A Christchurch mother who went through ten rounds of IVF treatment to conceive her second child said the test would "save people so much heartache".

The 37-year-old, who wished to remain anonymous, turned to IVF after her partner's vasectomy reversal was unsuccessful.

Their first child was conceived during her first round of IVF, but it took two years and the price of "a nice car" before she could conceive her second.

"They still don't know why this particular embryo worked and the other nine didn't."

The woman did not plan to have any more children, but encouraged others to volunteer for the research project.

"If it works, this test would just save people so much heartache."

Those interested in participating in the study can phone Fertility Associates on 0800 102 828 or email Evans at

The Press