Life Is Precious

Children are our hope and joy, but not everyone finds it easy to start a family. With 9 percent [1] of couples around the world struggling to conceive, improvements in fertility treatments are at the top of our agenda. Join us for a personal look at this difficult journey - and the advances that promise to make it more efficient and hopefully much less stressful in the future.

When the most natural thing in the world won't come naturally

I can still remember the incredible feeling I had, the first time I held my daughter, Rose.* So, when she told me she was planning to start a family of her own, I couldn’t have been more thrilled for her. Looking back, I was very lucky to have her. After all, the conditions need to be just right for the miracle of life to happen. It never occurred to me that so many people experience problems conceiving.

Rose and her husband Michael were among the many couples who face infertility. It turned out that she has blocked tubes, a condition that makes it impossible to get pregnant naturally. After reviewing their options, they decided to try IVF, counseled and guided by an experienced IVF clinic team. Rose and I have always been very close, and I’m grateful she trusted me enough to share this difficult decision and the journey it has taken them on. I, in turn, made it my mission to find out as much as I could to understand the processes involved and offer emotional support where needed, for Rose and also for Michael.

Apparently, fertility treatment is still a thorny issue and one that can be quite stressful for those involved. Emotional ups and downs, and a success rate of 20-30% per cycle [2-5] , make the journey challenging. Many couples do not make full use of their options and stop trying after their first or second attempt. However, a lot of what I’ve read on the subject also sounds quite encouraging. We’ve come a long way since the early days of IVF, where a medication from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, facilitated the birth of America’s first IVF baby, Elizabeth Carr, in 1981.

A sperm cell being inserted into the center of a woman's egg. A sperm cell being inserted into the center of a woman's egg.

The (above) image shows ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) in action: A single sperm is injected directly into the center of a woman's egg, fertilizing it.

It's All In The Details

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has ample experience in fertility and continuously generated fertility innovations, developing several groundbreaking treatment options and devices to improve success rates. The company’s latest fertility medications, technologies, and services are designed to make the treatment possible, with an estimated 2.5 million babies worldwide born with the help of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany's expertise.

But let’s get back to Rose and Michael’s journey: It all started with hormone treatments to stimulate the ovaries, several egg cells were then removed and fertilized. What happens next is an incredibly delicate process. To make sure the future child has the best possible chance from day one, it needs a stable environment that closely resembles the womb – even minute variations in temperature, pH, or oxygen can reduce the chances of a healthy embryo. At each step, all conditions need to be just right to give it the perfect start.

Thanks to recent developments, from researchers, scientists, and embryologists, state-of-the-art lab technologies for vitrification and continuous monitoring culture systems are already positively impacting treatment outcomes. [6]

 A happy family spending time together in the part after successful IVF treatment  A happy family spending time together in the part after successful IVF treatment

A Miracle in the Making

I have a confession to make. As IVF can often be an emotional rollercoaster ride, with no guarantee of success, I didn’t want to jinx anything, but Rose and Michael’s third round of IVF proved successful. Today, we welcomed little Paula into the world: a healthy, happy baby who’s already brightened the lives of her parents immensely.

Who knows – by the time Paula thinks about a family of her own, IVF might no longer be something to dread, but a standard treatment that works at first attempt, should she ever need it. Based on cross-departmental research and development, future fertility solutions aim to produce more viable embryos, be less stressful, and come with increased emotional support.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Today is all about the extraordinary journey mum, dad, and Paula have made, thanks to the dedication of all involved. And that cheeky twinkle in Paula’s eye? She’s definitely got that from me. But then again, any proud grandmother would say that, wouldn’t she?

 

*Story not based on true events.

A future with IVF success rates of 100 percent?

We can imagine it. Can you?

[1] Boivin, J. et al. New Debate: International estimates of infertility prevalence and treatment-seeking: potential need and demand for infertility medical care. Hum Reprod. 2007 22 (6):1506-1512

[2] Smith Andrew DAC, et al. Live-Birth Rate Associated With Repeat In Vitro Fertilization Treatment Cycles. JAMA. 2015; 314 (24): 2654-2662

[3] Ferraretti AP, et al. Assisted reproductive technology in Europe, 2009: results generated from European registers by ESHRE. Hum Reprod. 2013; 28 (9): 2318-2331

[4] US Dept of Health and Human Service. 2012 Assisted Reproductive Technology Fertility Clinic Success Rates Report. Atlanta (GA). 2014: 6. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/art/pdf/2012-report/art2012clinic_report-full.pdf Last access: May 2017

[5] Scott et al. Blastocyst biopsy with comprehensive chromosome screening and fresh embryo transfer significantly increases in vitro fertilization implantation and delivery rates: a randomized controlled trial. Fertil Steril. 2013; 100 (3): 697-703

[6] William Schoolcraft, Marcos Meseguer, The Global Fertility Alliance, Paving the way for a gold standard of care for infertility treatment: improving outcomes through standardization of laboratory procedures, Reproductive BioMedicine Online (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2017.06.023

Always Curious: Celebrating 350 Years of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

As we look to the future, we can only imagine what the next 350 years have in store for us …

US/NPR/0418/0165

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