IVF horror: Worst-case scenarios
What could possibly go wrong in an IVF procedure? Well, for one, the baby might not be yours. Read further for full IVF horror stories.
You have tried all natural means of conceiving but they have failed. The next best option would be to look at alternatives. One of which is In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). The procedure essentially puts the eggs and the sperms together before fertilized eggs are placed in the uterus. As you and your partner begin the process, anxiously awaiting positive news from the doctors, they come up to you instead with a grim revelation that there has been an error which means the baby is not yours.
TheAsianParent looks at IVF’s worst-case scenarios – what could go wrong in an IVF procedure.
1) Missing embryos
In 2009, a British couple was told by the University Hospital of Wales's IVF clinic that their last remaining embryos had been lost during treatment. The pair, identified only as Clare and Gareth, had been trying for a baby for eight years.
Clare told the BBC: ‘I was sat there, gowned up, waiting to go in and have a transfer. They said you've got one embryo remaining; the other two embryos have gone missing. They said in the next sentence, I can assure you they haven't gone into anyone else.’
She added: "Those were two potential babies."
The biggest worry in this case of missing embryos would be whether the embryos have either been implanted in another woman or been sold. However, it is believed that the error was a result of a computer glitch. Clare and Gareth have since taken legal actions against the clinic.
2) Wrong sperm
Last year Singapore saw an IVF controversy involving Thomson Medical Centre (TMC) and its fertility centre. It was reported that the Thomson Fertility Centre, a subsidiary of TMC, had wrongly used another man's sperm to conceive a child for a couple - a Singaporean Chinese woman and her Caucasian permanent-resident husband. Investigations were held and it was concluded that the botched treatment was due to lapses in procedure and human error. TMC's IVF centre had deviated from standard operating procedures
Three key lapses that led to the mix-up were revealed:
Firstly, the embryologist was processing the semen specimens of two individuals at the same workstation, and at the same time. Best practice requires an embryologist to work on the specimens of only one individual or one couple at a time.
Secondly, the pipette used to transfer the specimen was reused instead of being discarded.
To prevent contamination and a potential mix-up, the disposable instrument should have been discarded after each step.
Finally, the third major lapse was the absence of a second operator to counter-check that the specimens were transferred to the correct receptacles.
3) Implantation mix up
Recently, a high-profile fertility clinic in Hong Kong has admitted that it implanted two embryos into the wrong woman. The two women affected are receiving compensation. Other pregnant women who have used the clinic say they are appalled by the medical error.
The story behind it: a junior embryologist neglected to read the label on the embryos before they were implanted in the wrong woman through IVF. The clinic realised the error soon after and the embryos were taken out and discarded. The woman whose embryos they were and the woman who had them implanted have both received counselling and have been offered compensation, the clinic told local media. Victory ART Laboratory has been allowed to stay open after the council's investigation decided it was a human error.
Some pregnant women who have used the clinic reacted angrily online. They said they were horrified by the error, with one saying she would consider a DNA test once her baby was born to check if it was hers. The IVF clinic is part of a group of centers whose patients include several Hong Kong celebrities. The company also has clinics in Malaysia and the Philippines.
The reason for worry
While these are indeed the worst case scenarios, research done on such cases in England found cause for worry. The number of mistakes at IVF centres in England and Wales rose from 182 in 2007/8 to 334 in 2008/9. Many of these errors were either due to procedural or human mistakes.
While these mistakes may continue to occur in the future, patients are encouraged to not give up hope. Increasing measures by ministries and government watchdogs, aim to curb these problems. After all, the success rates overshadow any possible risks involved. And these worst case scenarios might not even happen to you.