BB Week 2

Before Baby - Week 4

There’ve been some exciting developments in fertility science in recent years. Find out more about how they could help you start a family.

Are you aware of the role genetics has to play when it comes to conceiving a healthy baby? Plus, we break down some of the genetic testing options available before pregnancy. Read on to find out more.

Quick backgrounder

A human cell contains genetic material arranged in strands, called chromosomes. A healthy cell will contain 23 pairs of chromosomes. Fertilisation combines 22 chromosomes and an X chromosome from the egg with 22 chromosomes and either an X or Y chromosome from the sperm. An embryo then has 46 chromosomes – if it’s a female, with two X chromosomes, and if it’s a male, with an X and a Y chromosome.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot that needs to happen perfectly for an embryo to result in a healthy baby. In fact, up to 70 per cent of embryos – whether they’re fertilised naturally or in a laboratory – sadly don’t survive the first three months of pregnancy or aren’t successfully implanted in the uterus due to gene conditions or random chromosome variations.

A recent Australian study of 12,000 couples showed high carrier rates of Cystic Fibrosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Fragile X. Screening for these conditions alone, or better, as part of a larger panel, is something you may want to consider.

Ok, so what are the genetic testing options?

Pre-conception carrier screening

We all carry genes that could result in serious disease in our children. Fortunately, most of us have good copies of those genes to keep us healthy. The problem arises when two people who, by rare chance, carry the same bad genes meet and start their family.

In this circumstance, the child is at risk of inheriting both bad genes, which could result in serious disease in the child.

Although family history can be helpful, often carriers of genetic conditions do not know they are carriers. We know 80% of babies born in Australia with a single gene genetic disorder had no family history of the condition, it is a matter of chance and who the genetic partner is.

Nowadays there are genetic panels available to screen whether or not you are a carrier of a genetic problem.

With carrier screening, one partner is tested first, and if they are found to be a carrier of a recessive condition, the other partner will need to be tested too. This is because if both partners carry the recessive gene, there is a one in four chance that their child will inherit that condition.

For those who plan on using clinic-recruited donor sperm to help them conceive, rest assured, all donors at our Virtus Health clinics undergo carrier screening prior to donation.

What happens if both partners are carriers?

One approach is to conceive naturally and to have testing performed on the pregnancy. The advantage of this is natural conception – more fun than IVF! The drawback of this, is the need to terminate a much-wanted pregnancy if it is found to be affected by the genetic disorder.

A sophisticated scientific technique called pre-implantation genetic testing (PGT) is a potential alternative, testing embryos so that only those that are chromosomally healthy or unaffected by specific disorders will be used in IVF.

And as of November 2021, the Australian government has added 5 new Medicare items to help couples and individuals access pre-implantation genetic testing for specific genetic or chromosomal variations prior to implantation. Previously, known carriers of genetic variations were only able to access PGT testing if they were able to pay privately.

At all our clinics, we offer an internationally recognised genetics program, including PGT. We’re thrilled that the new rebates mean we’ll be able to help even more families achieve their dreams of having a healthy child.

If you’d like to chat in person to talk through all things genetic testing, our fertility specialists would be happy to take the time. Call us on 1800 111 483 or click here to make an appointment.

The future of fertility

There’ve been some exciting developments in fertility science in recent years. Find out more about how they could help you start a family.

The world of fertility science is ever-changing, and as leaders in the field, we’ve got our fingers on the pulse of the latest developments. Having a baby isn’t always straightforward, in fact – sometimes it can feel like straight-up science-fiction, so let’s sort that from the facts. 

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been a rapidly growing area in recent years, and in fertility science, this technology is now helping select the most viable embryos. We have AI systems that perform comprehensive assessments of embryos to help us identify which ones have the greatest chance of developing into a healthy baby. That means we’re able to zero in on the ideal embryo, then transfer it into the woman’s uterus in IVF. Until now, an embryologist would assess an embryo’s viability based on appearance, but AI technology allows us to select with greater precision, improving patient pregnancy results.

Antioxidants

One of the most exciting projects in development is our antioxidant trial. Previous small studies have found that certain antioxidants have a positive impact on embryo development, implantation and fetal growth. We’re running a larger study to explore whether those antioxidants, added to the embryo culture conditions, improve embryo development and pregnancy outcome. If successful, the study could lead to greater results for people undergoing IVF.

EmbryoScope+

This innovative time-lapse technology carefully monitors and analyses the development of embryos. It combines an incubator, high-resolution camera and software to automatically photograph an embryo every ten minutes. Scientists can review the development of embryos at any point in time without removing them from their safe incubator environment.  It also means that the precious cargo is constantly kept at optimal temperature and pH conditions, mimicking the conditions of a natural pregnancy.

Electronic ID tracking

Known as ‘Witness’, this electronic system allocates the patient’s identity to each sample to ensure better traceability of vessels containing that patient’s eggs, embryos and sperm. This reduces the chance of error in human samples.

At Virtus Health, we have a vast network of scientists, fertility specialists, nurses, and counsellors who are dedicated to giving you the best possible chance of having a family.

Before Baby week4 - nutrition

Give fertility a boost with plant-based protein

Before Baby week4 - pilates

Our final Pilates class is the most advanced session where we incorporate everything we’ve learned over the past few weeks.

Before Baby week4 - emotional health

As you prepare both physically and mentally for your journey to parenthood, it’s a good time to reflect and do a resiliency check on your emotional health.

Kakeibo finance

Find out more about the new Japanese trend set to transform our lives and our finances.

During this programme you can head to our private Facebook group and chat with others who are trying to conceive. Hearing the experiences of other people on a similar fertility journey can be an invaluable source of support and encouragement.

Hear from our fertility specialists on what factors affect your fertility and what you can do to maximise you chances of conceiving.

 

In case you missed it last week: Week 3 of Before Baby >>>>