What are we looking for in a Blastocyst?
Blastocysts are usually the end point for an Embryology Lab because it represents the latest stage of development that will allow us to culture an embryo and get the most information about the embryo morphologically. It is also a good stage to definitively grade embryos because there are certain components to a Blastocyst that can be scored using a universal grading system. This way we can rank embryos from highest to lowest using a scale with evidence to support that higher graded Blasts have more success developing into a healthy baby.
We look at 2 main components of the Blastocyst when grading it: the Inner Cell Mass and the surrounding cells called the Trophectoderm. The photo above demonstrates these two cell types beautifully and it is very easy to distinguish between them. We are looking for quality of cells, their evenness, and the number of cells. We use the Gardner system, which gives an alphanumeric score to represent embryos size, inner cell mass, and Trophectoderm. We avoid using a qualitative scale, like "good, fair, poor" because we believe that it lowers our ability to compare like to like and distinguish among embryos, thereby potentially lowering success rates.
Ask your Embryologist what your embryos' grades are. This will help you to get an idea of your embryos' quality. If you didn't receive a grade from your Embryologist, you are welcome to email a picture of your embryos to [email protected] and we will respond with the grade that we would assign.
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