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05 Sept 2012

Thirty–three–year–old Swati Kapoor (name changed) underwent many failed pregnancies before she finally held her first baby in her arms. She is also one of the few mothers to have witnessed her baby being formed right from a single cell—a miracle very few mothers around the world have witnessed.

Kapoor had been trying to conceive through in–vitro fertilisation (IVF) at a private hospital in Mumbai for over a year, but with little success. However, technology came to her rescue when doctors monitored the developing fertilised egg for up to five days before implanting it in her womb using an embryoscope–a device that photographically records the embryo growth outside the womb until it matures for implant.

"Of the few complex pregnancies we have worked on, the embryoscope has provided a marked improvement in the success rate. Earlier, we would implant up to three embryos and leave the pregnancy to chance," said chief embryologist Vrunda Kuchekar at Lilavati Hospital in Bandra, Mumbai. Currently, IVF clinics check if an embryo is fit for implant by manually removing the sample for observation under a microscope, which is otherwise constantly maintained in an incubated condition at 37 degrees Celsius. While one in every three IVF couples achieve a successful pregnancy, Spain–based clinical embryologist Marcos Meseguer said, "The use of embryoscope pushes success rate of conception by 10–20%, thus making parenthood possible for one in every two couples. This, apart from cutting the risk of a multiple pregnancy."

"Maintaining constant incubation temperatures for proper development of the zygote, the embryoscope can hold 72 samples at a time which it photographs every 20 minutes using an in–built camera. The images are magnified close to 10,000 times, which doctors monitor through a workstation to detect possible anomalies during the formation," added Meseguer.

Although six hospital across the country are employing the embryoscope to push up IVF–related pregnancies, a majority of the private consultants remain apprehensive due to the high installation costs (close to Rs70 lakh) of the hi–tech machine. "As private hospitals don’t fund machines, consultants must acquire the expensive machine on their own accord. It will be some years before private doctors start using the embryoscope, after working out a cost–benefit analysis," said fertility consultant Kedar Ganla at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital in Powai, Mumbai.

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