Don’t be afraid to tell the truth. When you hear Pre-Genetic Implantation Screening or Diagnosis (PGS/PGD), you are most likely thinking, “The couple must have the AS genotype, or the woman is of advanced age and they need to be sure the embryos transferred are good.” Or worse, “They want to make sure it’s only a boy/girl they have.”
Well, you are welcome to the club of those who think that PGD/PGS is merely for a certain group of people, mostly those doing IVF. One thing you should know is this; it might well become standard practice in the future, much the same way that ICSI is becoming a standard part of IVF cycles nowadays.
For some people who might never need this add on, PGD/PGS will remain a mystery, however, for Odunayo, who for four years jumped from one treatment plan to another, who listened to what her doctor said, her friends and even Dr. Google, she had to learn to keep an open mind in order to accept PGD/PGS as part of her fertility journey.
When Odunayo had started out, she had been hopeful of getting her baby within one year, max, but it turned into a long journey filled with a series of failed implantations, after severe male factor infertility.
She then moved onto the embies implanting, but none ever passed the 12-week mark. And during those times, everyone had an idea of what might be wrong; from her doctor to her dog, if it were able to voice it. Suggestions were made regarding the things she should do. Some suggestions were out right batty, like the time someone suggested she steam her vagina steam bath to unclog her womb. She had been like, “I’m trying to have a baby, I didn’t just give birth.”
And the friend had looked at her, told her oversabi was worrying her, and then listed the numerous other ladies who had done the process and one touch from their husbands afterwards, gbam, they had gotten pregnant. Well, her oversabi paid off, when she told another friend who debunked the efficiency of the said vaginal steam bath. They agreed that the other ladies had used something else to get pregnant and they were not sharing.
It was after another miscarriage that Odunayo’s doctor finally suggested that they try the PGS/PGD thingie, but there was a snag. Their clinic did not offer the services, but if she wanted, they could have the embies tested abroad and brought in for the transfer. Odunayo and her husband agreed, but the cost of the procedure was so prohibitive that they had second thoughts.
In the end, they decided it was one thing they hadn’t tried and who knew, it might have been what they needed. So, they gave themselves a much needed break from IVF, both fresh and frozen transfers, and saved enough to attempt pre-implantation screening and diagnosis. It was their saving grace, and from that cycle, they finally had a pregnancy that went beyond 12 weeks and till full term, when they had their daughter. They are now considering FET, with PGS/PGD included, and this time around, they intend to try for a boy, which they can with the procedure.
For those who don’t know, Pre-implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) and Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) are screening processes designed to increase the chances of a healthy embryo implantation. PGS screens for extra or missing copies of chromosomes, while PGD looks for single-gene defects that may lead to genetic disorders.
PGD and PGS require one extra step in the IVF treatment process. Once the eggs have been fertilized and embryonic development begins, the embryologist performs an embryo biopsy, and genetic specialists determine which embryos carry a genetic anomaly and which are normal.
About this procedure, here are some common misconceptions followed by the fact.
- PGD is “like playing God” and creating designer babies.
I’m sure you have heard about designer babies and how potential parents choose and pick what features they would like their kid to have. Well, most of what you know is really the Hollywood version.
True, Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis is considered by some to be a controversial procedure, as when used as an add on in an IVF cycle, it helps to screen for single-cell gene defects that could lead to genetic disorders.
By screening for these genetic conditions, couples affected by a genetic disorder are able to reduce the risk of its transference to their children, thus why so many people liken the procedure to “playing God.”
The fact in the case is all dependent on your faith and where you stand morally on such issues. Having kids with the sickle cell gene, when it’s possible not to have them might be playing God to one couple and a commonsensical approach for another couple. To each, his own.
- PGS is meant for moms of advanced maternal age
It’s easy to understand why so many people believe PGS is solely for women of advanced maternal age. While it’s true that an increase in age results in an increased risk for fertility issues, the belief that younger women aren’t at risk is a fallacy.
The fact is women of all ages are at risk of having chromosomally abnormal embryos, from the prime of childbearing years, in your 20s, even to yours 50s, it’s possible. According to a genetic specialist, day 5 testing of embryos shows that, for women under the age of 30, there’s a 30 percent risk for each embryo to be abnormal. For women in their late 30s, that number jumps to a whopping 50%.
- PGS identifies chromosome abnormalities only
There’s no denying that PGS can provide infertile couples with valuable genetic insight, by looking for chromosomal abnormalities, like the sickle cell gene, Down’s syndrome and so many other genetic conditions that are not known in the early stage of life, except through this procedure.
While, it is true that couples who have a family history of chromosome abnormality are ideal candidates for PGS, so also are couples that have had multiple failed pregnancies, or IVF transfers, and simply want to know the reason for their failures.
The fact is PGS is used to help infertile couples learn the reason behind their infertility. Most people don’t know why their embryos either aren’t implanting or are resulting in early losses, like Odunayo, until after genetic testing. For couples dealing with unexplained infertility, PGS can supply much-needed answers.
Another fact is, there are some who believe PGS is used for gender selection, or so-called “family balancing,” but most fertility clinics do not share the gender with patients until they are successfully pregnant following a transfer. But some clinics do, if the main reason, you are doing PGS is for family-balancing, whatever that means.
- Low grade embryos results in an unsuccessful pregnancy
IVF embryos are usually “graded” to aid the transfer of only the best embies into the mom, as they have more chances of implanting and leading to a successful pregnancy. Even though, the obvious choice is always the grade A embryos, low grade embryos also have the potential to result in a successful pregnancy.
The fact: With PGS/PGD, low grade embies can actually get transferred and result in a successful pregnancy, as long as they have been certified to be chromosomally normal.
Those are four misconceptions about PGD/PGS debunked already but there are still more. And that is where a questioning mind would work. In fact, the fertility journey demands that you question everything, especially as it relates to your fertility diagnosis.
It is not everything that will work for you, so you need to ask questions and do some digging of your own. After all you are your own best advocate.
Food for thought!
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