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Blastocyst: IVF Terminology Explained in Simple Terms

blastocyst ivf

The process of in vitro fertilization is filled with technical terms that can leave many prospective parents feeling perplexed. One of the most intimidating is ‘blastocyst’, IVF jargon that can make the best of us feel totally confused. After all, what does blasting anything have to do with having a baby?! However, the ‘blast’ part of ‘blastocyst’ is a medical term from the Greek blastós, which is a germ, bud, sprout, or shoot – which makes a lot more sense. In this article, we walk you through the basics of how a blastocyst is created through IVF and how the process can help you to get pregnant.

What is a Blastocyst?

As we’ve mentioned, the word blastocyst comes from the Greek for bud or shoot. This is why it is the name for a tiny human embryo that is only five, six, or seven days old. Under the microscope, a blastocyst embryo has cells surrounding a fluid-filled cavity called the blastocoel.  The cells surrounding the cavity are precursor placenta cells called the trophectoderm. There is also a group of cells called the inner cell mass, which will eventually develop into the fetus.

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How Does the Process Work?

After the sperm and egg combine in a culture dish, successful fertilization may lead to the development of a blastocyst. Most clinics attempt to grow embryos out in the lab for five or six days until they reach blastocyst stage. Previously, IVF doctors would usually transfer three-day-old embryos, but now we know that blastocyst embryos have a higher success rate in comparison. After the embryo reaches blastocyst stage, a fertility specialist will implant it into the uterus as part of a straightforward and painless procedure. Less than two weeks later you’ll take a pregnancy test to check that you have fallen pregnant.

Is a Blastocyst IVF Transfer Better Than Other Methods?

When it comes to IVF, it is important to remember that every case is unique. However, in certain groups, blastocyst IVF transfer is statistically more successful. For example, if you’re under 35, the implantation is more likely to be successful. According to new data collected by the HFEA, successful blastocyst IVF transfers are on the rise. Sometimes, doctors will transfer two blastocysts to improve the chances of implantation. However, research suggests that this only works for younger women, and 34% of the time, this process will result in twins.

Are There Any Downsides?

As we’ve said, there is a chance that multiple blastocyst transfers can result in multiple births. Therefore, many specialists will recommend that you opt for a single blastocyst transfer, especially as success rates are increasing. Furthermore, blastocyst culturing is a specialist process that not all fertility clinics provide. In addition, some clinics will have better success rates than others – so make sure you do your research before choosing your healthcare provider.

Is Blastocyst Transfer Right for Me?

It is true that the success rates of blastocyst transfer are only getting better – however, every case is individual. Your fertility specialist will examine the specifics of your case and advise you as to whether or not blastocyst transfer is the best solution to your specific needs. Whichever path to fertility you choose, ensure that you gather as much information. With the right advice, you can enter the process feeling informed and in control.

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