Is IVF more boy-friendly?

We did genetic testing along with our IVF treatment, so we were able to see the sex of all of our embryos.  We didn’t WANT to know before transferring because we wanted it to be a surprise and we made that clear to our doctor.  He forgot.

We had 11 eggs that fertilized, but only 5 made it the 5 days after insemination to the testing day.  We found this out the morning of our embryo transfer, 6 days after egg retrieval/insemination, but it came with some bittersweet news.  First of all, our dumb dumb Dodo doctor came in that morning and exclaimed that he had some “great news.”  Out of 11 eggs, we were left with 2 healthy embryos.  Both male.  2.  We were super excited because we both wanted a boy, but there was also that twinge of sadness from finding out much earlier than (and not how) we wanted what the sex of our baby would be, and also knowing that we didn’t even have the option of having a girl from this round of IVF.

Even more concerning was that 3 of the 5 embryos were abnormal, and ALL FIVE were male.  We had no female embryos that made it to testing.  Which of course raises the complex question; What the fuck?

I actually don’t think we got much information at all about the genetic testing.  I’m not even sure if we got a physical report about their findings, we were just told that day that 3 of the 5 were “abnormal.”  I don’t know if they even know more than that or not.  I’d be interested in hearing from any of you fellow IVFers who also did testing if you ever got any more information than just normal/abnormal.  It seems sort of vague to me.  Could “abnormal” be anything ranging from minor to severe?  Who knows?  But it does make the prospect of trying on our own that much more daunting.

It would seem something is going on with our female embryos.  So while I was thrilled with the outcome of the IVF and ACTUALLY BEING PREGNANT!!  I was also quietly mourning the possibility that we had just been handed yet another obstacle and told yet another thing my body cannot do; make a female baby.

I’ve since read that IVF can be tough on female embryos, which are more fragile.  Especially with genetic testing, having to last outside the womb for 5 days is not an easy task (I can relate).  But this seems to only account for a very small margin, about 1-2% in favor of male embryos.

BUT, there’s another factor that I think is terribly overlooked when it comes to male favorability in IVF.  There are are many different protocols and techniques to IVF.  Over the several years of researching it and actually going through it myself I’ve spoken with many other women who have also gone through it.  None of us had the same exact experience.  One technique which can differ is the use of ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) vs the dish method.

In the dish method an egg is introduced to a petri dish of sperm, the same way it would be inside the womb, so nature can take it’s course.  In ICSI, under direct microscopic vision, an embryologist chooses a single sperm and injects it into the egg.  ICSI is typically used for male infertility, when there are few sperm or the quality of them is low.  Our IVF clinic uses ICSI across the board, we did not get a choice in whether or not to use it.  I believe this is because of the genetic testing.

Fertilization in a petri dish, just like in natural insemination, requires interaction between the sperm and cumulus cells that surround the egg.  There is a need to remove these cumulus cells in order to perform preimplantation genetic screening (PGS), and therefor it is left far less capable of being fertilized spontaneously.  Hence the need for further intervention (ICSI).

ICSI does have a higher pregnancy success rate, but you are also eliminating natural selection to some degree.  Eggs have ways of determining the best sperm and keeping those that have defects from passing through.  In ICSI, you have an embryologist basically eyeballing sperm and hand selecting one, and forcing it into the egg.  I believe they look for things like size and swimming strength, which could be why there is a higher occurrence of males?  Just a thought.

I’m totally fascinated by the science that brought us our baby, and I’m so grateful for it’s existence!  I could happily read about IVF all day, if I wasn’t busy chasing around the product of it in the form of my 10 month old who is faster on all 4s than I am on my 2s.  I would like to know the reason we had all male embryos, but it’s more due to my curiosity and thirst for knowledge when it comes to this stuff than anything else.  It would also be nice to know that the cause is not an indication of something unhealthy that I may be passing down to my son.  I would LOVE to have a daughter some day, but am perfectly happy being a #boymom forever.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Is IVF more boy-friendly?

  1. We had 8 embryos tested. One abnormal, seven healthy. The abnormal one never received any DNA from the sperm, the one they picked was a dud. Our clinic also does ICSI across the board. We used stellar donor eggs from a super human donor(she was a rock star!), we have 10 embryos on ice. Of the seven that came back normal, we had two girls and five boys. We got the general report but didn’t pick. We just asked for the best looking embryo. I haven’t read IVF makes more boys. Maybe boy sperm moves more quickly or looks more robust. With our odds, 5:2, I just figured DH made more boy sperm than girl sperm.

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    • Kate Buckley says:

      Wow, rock star eggies!! That’s so cool! Yeah this is mostly just my own theory after talking to so many other IVF couples and, at least of the people I know, boys seem to be more prevalent. It could totally just be a coincidence but I’d love to find out!

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  2. Locally, I have 3 IVF friends. We have 3 boys and 1 girl between us. I’ve heard that IVF results in more male babies being born. Would love more studies to come out on whether this statistic does relate to ISCI. I will ask our RE about this whenever we go back. Unfortunately that convo probably won’t be for another year. .

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    • Kate Buckley says:

      Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser. My most recent friend undergoing IVF just ended up with 2 female embryos, but she is the first that I know who has! Of course she had her heart set on a boy (doesn’t life just always turn out that way?) so for her it’s a bit of a blow. But I know she’ll be excited with a daughter! I think no matter what you have, you think it’s the best. What do we know about what we want, anyway? Motherhood is NOTHING like I naively imagined it would be before I had River. I thought I needed both a boy and a girl, but now I’d be happy with all boys.

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  3. Interesting… I never really thought about IVF producing more of one sex. We had our daughter with IVF, and we have one frozen embryo, I’m curious if it’s a boy…

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