A day in the life on an Embryologist 

Our day starts by checking all of the equipment and cleaning the work surfaces in the lab.

We then start on the fertilisation checks, these are the eggs that were collected and mixed with sperm the day before. We are looking for 2 sets of genetic material visible in the egg, one from the male and one from the female. Once we have checked all of the eggs we call the patients and let them know their results.

Patients for egg collection that day are usually starting to arrive on the ward by this time so we go and see them to discuss the treatment plans for their eggs, sperm and embryos over the next few days. The egg collection procedures then start mid-morning and while one Embryologist is identifying, washing and sorting the eggs, another will be preparing the sperm samples. The sperm is also washed and the best swimming ones are selected for mixing with the egg.

We also warm embryos for the frozen embryo transfers around this time, to allow time for us to check on them in our incubators before they are transferred back into the uterus.

Towards lunchtime we do more embryo checks, counting the number of cells and grading those cells to start the selection process for embryo transfer. The majority of our patients have a single embryo transfer therefore making sure we have selected the best embryo for transfer is very important to us. We keep the patients updated with the results of every check we do.

Embryo transfers take place around lunchtime and again we spend time talking to the patients in their rooms and moving the embryos into special embryo glue culture media. We also take the embryo’s first picture to show the patients during the transfer.

We usually get a quick lunch break around now but then it is back down to the lab to start the inseminations and ICSIs. These are the two methods of mixing eggs and sperm. ICSI is probably my favourite job as an Embryologist, you are directly injecting a specific sperm into the egg so you have to choose very carefully!

After the mixing is done we start to think about preparing for the next day by setting up paperwork and dishes of culture media. We also have a lot of paperwork to do, sending letters to patients, answering queries and reporting our treatment cycles to the HFEA. I am very lucky that my job involves a lot of patient contact and we try to look after our patients with the same Embryologist throughout their time in the lab. I love my job and can’t think of anything better than combining my love of science with helping people become parents.

We are very proud to announce that RHG’s Board and Clinical Director Luciano Nardo has been appointed Visiting Professor to Manchester Metropolitan University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering.

This follows last week’s confirmation of a professorship within the University of Catania in Sicily, Italy, with both roles being awarded in recognition of Luciano’s long term commitment to research and teaching alongside his clinical career.

It is also recognition for the work done by Annette Eckersley, who has worked with Luciano since 2004, to create and maintain links with universities and provide ongoing opportunities for medical students to further their knowledge during placements at our clinic. We are delighted to now have the potential to increase these opportunities even further and collaborate with our academic partners on new and exciting research projects to help keep RHG at the forefront of innovation in the field.

RHG baby becomes Internet sensation!

It was lovely to read about one of our RHG babies in last Friday’s Lancashire Telegraph. The story featured one of our patients who underwent fertility treatment with the help of a sperm donor and her gorgeous little boy, Harry, who’s modelling career has already started… at 7 months old!

Here is the news story in full…

A TEACHER who gave up on Tiny tot, takes the web by storm as face of retail company finding ‘Mr Right’ has welcomed her first child with the help of an anonymous sperm donor.

Jessica Orme, 36, from Blackburn said she had always wanted children but decided to go it on her own as a single mum because she couldn’t find the right partner.

The primary school teacher said she now could not imagine life without gorgeous little Harry, who, at seven months-old, is already breaking hearts as the face of a Lancashire baby company.

Miss Orme, who sought treatment with The Reproductive Health Group in Cheshire, said: “I’d been on the council adoption waiting list for 18 months, and had not been successful.

“And so I investigated other routes. Reproductive Health Group, and surgeon Luciano Nardo were brilliant from the start.

“Harry’s daddy is an anonymous sperm donor from America.

“I’d always wanted children, but I just never met the right man. Now I’m too stubborn and set in my own ways to want to change that, and so I decided to go down the single route instead.

“It’s the best decision I ever made.

“Harry and I are a perfect little unit and I’m so grateful that he’s in my life.”

And the proud mum from Ewood said her little star was now a social media sensation after he landed a modelling job with baby company ‘Bizzi Growin’, based in Chorley.

Miss Orme said: “When Harry was born, one of my friends bought me a voucher for a newborn baby photoshoot.

“The photographer came to the house when Harry was around four months old. And then, on Mothering Sunday this year, she called back and asked if Harry wanted to be a model.

“It’s so funny. I’ll be flicking through Instagram and Facebook and then I’ll be like, ‘Ooh, look, there’s my child’.

“I’m very proud of him and I’m glad others find him as cute as I do.”

Harry can now be seen modelling a range of bedding and blankets.

Miss Orme said: “We go to a baby sensory group and one of the ladies there said, ‘I recognise him… is your little boy on a website?’

“Harry can be quite smiley and photogenic when he’s happy and entertained.

“But on the day of the photoshoot he actually had a bit of a meltdown half way through.

“He’d just had his 16-week jabs and he was dosed up on Calpol. But he had a few tears and then carried on like a true professional.”

Luciano Nardo, clinical director of The Reproductive Health Group, said: “We’ve had lots and lots of beautiful babies born through our clinic, but we’ve never had a child model until now.

“He’s a gorgeous little boy.”

Università degli studi di Catania

Reproductive Health Group are very proud to announce a new partnership with the Università degli studi di Catania, the oldest university in Sicily, Italy.

RHG Clinical Director Luciano Nardo, who studied at the university before going on to become one of the UK’s leading fertility experts, will be a visiting Professor within the Masters programme for ‘Biology & Biotechnology of Reproduction’ and students on the course will have the opportunity to visit RHG’s state of the art clinic at Daresbury Park as part of the programme.

We are looking forward very much to this exciting new collaboration and the chance to work with some of the new young experts of the future.


Spire Hospital Manchester

We now have both fertility and gynaecology appointments available at the Spire Hospital in Manchester. For more details or to request an appointment, please click here to contact us, or call us on: 01925 202180.

Photo copyright of Spire Hospital Manchester.

There are many ways in which women can optimise and enhance their fertility potential and here are some useful tips:

  • Keeping BMI (body mass index) in check.  Being either underweight or overweight can influence fertility potential and getting pregnant becomes increasingly difficult in either situation, hence it is vital to maintain a healthy balance. Diet and BMI both play important roles in the proper functioning of the female reproductive systems. Women who are either overweight or underweight are less likely to conceive when compared to those who have a BMI of between 18 and 25.
  • Excessive alcohol is hazardous for health as well as for fertility and should be limited when trying to conceive. Although higher levels of alcohol should be avoided when trying to get pregnant, there is no evidence to show that moderate alcohol consumption adversely affects fertility.
  • Excessive caffeine intake can also lead to fertility-related problems. It is not recommended to have more than a couple of caffeine-containing drinks a day if you’re trying to become pregnant and less than 200 to 250 milligrams of caffeine a day is best.
  • Be aware of your fertile days. Keep a check on your basal body temperature and ensure that ovulation is taking place each month.
  • Excessive stress can negatively affect the fertility quotient of women, so try to keep stress levels down. Meditation may help with this.
  • Adequate rest is also important. An irregular or erratic sleeping cycle can cause fertility problems.
  • Smoking should be avoided. It has a negative impact on your overall health and also reduces your ability to get pregnant. The carcinogens in cigarettes are harmful to eggs and also reduce the chances of pregnancy
  • A holistic diet, full of essential vitamins, is beneficial for fertility. A diet rich in mercury (found in some seafood) can be associated with infertility.

It is easier and better to maintain a healthy lifestyle than to undergo infertility treatment. So stay healthy and enhance your fertility prowess.

IVF is the most effective form of fertility treatment. The success rate for IVF is higher than for other types of fertility treatments, although of course this is not yet 100% and a successful outcome cannot be guaranteed. However the chances of success can be greatly increased by choosing the right IVF specialist to treat you.

Some of the key characteristics that are essential for a good IVF specialist are:

Honesty and Integrity: An IVF specialist must always be completely open and honest with his or her patients. When explaining the details of IVF to patients or allaying their fears, a good specialist will be articulate and realistic, explaining things clearly at all times. He or she will not withhold any vital information from patients or make any false promises. If the chances of success in a particular case are little or non-existent, the specialist must convey that to the patient in order to avoid potential emotional suffering.

Compassion: An IVF specialist must understand the mental and emotional state of his or her patients and show utmost compassion and care towards them at all times. Patients undergoing fertility treatment are often emotionally distressed and tense during their treatment, so extra care and compassion from their specialist will help the patients to feel as comfortable and reassured as possible throughout.

Experience and Skills: There is simply no substitute for skills and experience. An IVF specialist with proven skills and experience is more likely to conduct a successful IVF treatment than one with limited skills and experience.

How to Diagnose Unexplained Infertility

It can be very confusing for patients to be told by their IVF specialist that they have ‘unexplained infertility’. They find it hard to believe that infertility can still be unexplained in spite of all the medical and technological advances that exist today. Some may even start to doubt their specialist and think that perhaps he or she is not competent enough to diagnose their problem. They may even begin to think that if he or she cannot identify the nature and causes of their infertility, how would they be able to solve the problem anyway?.

The truth is however that despite cutting-edge medical technology, there are some things which still cannot be accurately determined or diagnosed. But the good news is that despite not knowing the exact nature and causes of infertility, it can still be overcome. In other words, unexplained infertility can be treated and couples can become parents. Sometimes, specialists may not know the full reasons behind a problem but are still able to offer a solution and this is certainly true of unexplained infertility.

In these situations it is essential for the IVF specialist to take the time to clearly explain the dynamics of unexplained infertility to their patients so that there is no room for misunderstanding or miscommunication between them. Only after conducting all the relevant investigations should they then tell the patients that they find the infertility to be unexplained and once this stage is reached it should not be necessary to conduct more and more investigations in order to try and find a definitive diagnosis.

IVF treatment is the most effective treatment for unexplained infertility and is usually the recommended course of action for these cases.

How acupuncture can support IVF

IVF and acupuncture – introduction

For childless couples dreaming of starting a family, undergoing fertility treatment can be an extremely stressful time.

So increasingly, many couples are turning to acupuncture as a way of helping them to cope with their IVF treatment programme as well as trying to improve their chances of success.

And as recent research suggests, acupuncture may help with IVF treatment.

For more about this research – which suggests couples who have acupuncture may be twice as likely to conceive than those who don’t – read on.

What is acupuncture?

Most people will think of needles when you mention acupuncture.

Well, let’s take a closer look at this ancient Chinese practice and shed some light on what it is and what the benefits may be.

Traditional acupuncture is a healthcare system that is based on ancient Chinese principles that are around 2,000 years old.

A way to restore your body’s balance

A practising acupuncturist sees pain and illness as signs that the body is out of balance. The prime aim of an acupuncture treatment, therefore, is to restore the body’s equilibrium.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture’s underlying principle is that the body’s primary organs use qui (pronounced chi) and meridians.

Qi is energy, while meridians are pathways and the body’s organs use these in order to communicate with each other.

When the body is healthy, according to the principles of acupuncture, the energy flows freely. Thus, health is promoted and the body resists disease.

If, on the other hand, the energy is weakened or becomes blocked, it results in pain or illness.

Those needles

During an acupuncture treatment, very fine, single-use needles are inserted into points along specific channels or meridians on the body. This helps to strengthen or unblock the body’s energy.

Do the needles hurt?

The needles used in acupuncture are much finer than needles used for injections or blood tests. So it is highly unlikely you will experience discomfort – you are more likely to feel a tingling sensation or dull ache when the needle is inserted through the skin.

So how can acupuncture support couples undergoing IVF?

Evidence from ultrasounds has shown that acupuncture can improve uterine blood flow. This may create a more welcoming environment for implantation.

Many doctors and scientists feel acupuncture at the very least can have a calming effect on patients.

And when couples are undergoing the inevitable stress of fertility treatments, an increase in relaxation could be vital to a successful IVF treatment, particularly when you consider how stress hormones can inhibit fertility.

Acupuncture may double couples’ chances of fertility, says report

Last year (2016), national newspapers were full of headlines about a university hospital study into the use of acupuncture with IVF.

The Daily Mail said: Acupuncture ‘doubles the chances of getting pregnant through IVF’.

The Telegraph said: Acupuncture doubles chance of having a baby with IVF, study suggests.

The study by Homerton University Hospital, in London, found that rates of success were double among those couples who underwent acupuncture treatment than those who didn’t.

The study involved 160 couples who were having fertility problems. Half of them underwent acupuncture sessions during their IVF cycle.

When the scientists checked a year later, those couples who had acupuncture achieved pregnancy rates of 46.2 per cent. Meanwhile, those who did not have acupuncture had pregnancy rates of 21.7 per cent.

Impressive findings.

Want to know more?

Contact the Acupuncturist team at the Reproductive Health group to see how acupuncture can help you.

Written by: Mandy Laing, Care Coordinator/Acupuncturist

Stress & Fertility

Stress can be one of the major factors impacting on fertility. Here are a few simple activities which could be instrumental in enhancing your chances of conceiving by helping you to relax and feel less stressed.

1) Take a trip – Taking a trip to somewhere serene and secluded helps you to relax away from the chaos of daily life and you can feel at ease with yourself. Ideally choose a place where natural beauty is in abundance and there are some scenic spots to explore.

2) An orange a Day – Orange contains Norepinephrine which not only lifts up mood instantly but also boosts fertility.

3) Recalibrate your ‘do-to’ list – Focus on doing things which you enjoy. Eliminate as many as possible of those chores that you find cumbersome or insipid.

4) Take out time for sex – Sex can be a mood enhancer and fosters the bond between partners. It can also increase your fertility quotient.

5) Have some space for yourself – In today’s world when technology has become an integral part of our lives, it is not possible to discard all gadgets, but occasionally take time out away from technology such as mobiles and laptops. This can help you feel calmer and more relaxed.

6) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It is actually a first step in moving forward from many problems in your life which could be holding you back from having a baby.

7) Body Massage – Body Massage is a potent tool to soothe your frayed nerves and give your immense pleasure. It is mentally relaxing and emotionally invigorating.

8) Indulge in Meditation – Indulging in meditation is conducive for mental & physical health as well as for fertility. When the body is relaxed and mind is phlegmatic, the chances of conceiving increase significantly. Stress is one of the major causes of infertility and meditation is an excellent antidote to it.