Pregnancy is a complex process in the best possible scenario - two people deciding to have a baby and conceiving naturally. Even then, many things can go wrong. There is truth in sayings such as “babies are miracles.”
But what if a couple just doesn’t get pregnant?
According to the CDC, infertility is a common concern in North America, affecting one out of every eight couples trying to conceive.
There are many risk factors for men and women alike, including
- Occupational or environmental exposures to chemicals, radiation or other factors
- Smoking or drinking excessively
- Being overweight or underweight
Either way, many couples struggle with fertility issues. The CDC’s research shows that at least 11.9% of women have undergone fertility treatments at some point - this translates into 7.4 million women in the US alone.
These couples may turn to in-vitro fertilization or other fertility treatments such as fertility medicines, genetic testing, IUI (Intrauterine insemination) or other options, including adoption and life without children.
It’s an emotional journey filled with hope, painful procedures, doubt, insecurity, lots of waiting and relationship stressors. And there are no guarantees, of course.
Why fertility treatments fail
It would be nice to know exactly why and where a problem of infertility arises that persists even with fertility treatments. Then doctors and researchers could concentrate on this specific issue and find a cure or resolution. Unfortunately, often doctors simply don’t know what the problem is - it could be because of the man or the woman, external circumstances, genetic makeup, former health concerns or a combination of multiple factors. Some tests will shed light on the cause, but in many cases no obvious cause emerges.
While stress and lifestyle can have an effect, most couples should realize that it could also be the process itself and conditions in the laboratory that may become a problem.
The importance of air quality in the lab
In order to successfully fertilize the eggs in the lab, scientists try to copy the surroundings in the human body. This is relatively easy when it comes to light and temperature, but what about the ambient air? Studies have shown that poor air quality in the lab can negatively impact embryo development and pregnancy rates. As one lab explains, their facilities were made into scent-free environments to limit the amount of volatile organic compounds released in the air. That means no perfume, scented soaps, body lotions and hair products allowed for staff and patients. According to the lab, this policy increased overall success rates for in vitro fertilization.
Other ways to help improve air quality in labs is to use positive air pressure to keep contaminants out, to clean only with alcohol once it is safe for embryos and to make sure that ventilation and air purifiers are used properly.
Lab managers should also be aware of the air quality outside and plan any renovations carefully to avoid air contamination.
Once the lab conditions are ideal, it’s also important for the technicians to use the right techniques and make the right decisions. If anything is off during any part of the process, the entire IVF round could be compromised.
It’s a miracle either way, but for most couples, it’s a process well worth it.