Genetic Testing Can Help Find Healthy Embryos

Posted at 6:22 PM, Nov 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-24 19:34:56-05

For the Beards, the holiday season brings a lot of memories. Some of them are painful.

"It was brutal and it was a big test for our relationship," Emily Beard said, "I was pregnant five times and lost all five of those pregnancies."

She and her husband Chuck had been trying to have a baby for years. Their OB/GYN didn't know what was wrong.

Finally they visited the Nashville Fertility Center.

"He was the doctor our friend in Bowling Green said you need to go to their team," Chuck said.

The clinic is one of the growing number of clinics genetically testing embryos in their labs through a process called Next Gen Sequencing.

"We're just trying to find that most healthy embryo to transfer back and try to give them that chance of getting pregnant," said Dr. George Hill.

Hill and his colleagues examine computer-analyzed reports to find embryos with the normal number of chromosomes. They say more than half of all embryos are abnormal.

And the abnormality rate goes up as the mother ages or if the parents carry different genetic disorders.

"Most embryos that have abnormalities are not going to implant and the ones the implant are most likely going to miscarry," Hill said.

With the data they can choose a single healthy embryo to put back into the mother through In Vitro Fertilization. 

The testing doesn't cover appearance or any specific traits of the baby other than gender, which is apparent through the chromosomes present.

"Most patients in our practice don’t really care if it’s a boy or a girl they just want a healthy baby," Hill said.

For the Beards, the choice was simple.

"They were able to fertilize eight or nine (eggs), and only one of those was a healthy embryo," Emily said.

That one embryo eventually became their son Avett.

He was born during the holidays last year.

"(I was) feeling really appreciative of just everything," Chuck said, thinking back to Avett's birth.

And now as their son is about to turn one year old, Emily and Chuck are giving thanks for the one they waited for.

"This year has been a bit challenging and he has been the bright light when I wake up and look at him every day," Emily said with a smile.

They're also grateful for the doctors who helped the family find him.

"Emily was like 'praise God for making the doctors!'" Chuck laughed.

Adding genetic testing to IVF costs between $4,000 and $5,000, which is roughly around the same cost of an additional In Vitro cycle.

In Vitro is not right for every family's situation. Dr. Hill says there are much less invasive ways to get pregnant and that you should consult your doctor about what's best for your family.