• A new app gives IVF patients access to time-lapse footage of their embryos. (iStockphoto/Getty)
A new fertility app lets IVF patients track the progress of their growing embryos with photos and videos. While it sounds appealing, Jo Hartley writes, the new technology might not be ideal for everyone.
By
Jo Hartley

22 Aug 2017 - 3:42 PM  UPDATED 22 Aug 2017 - 4:11 PM

New apps are being developed all the time and it’s hard to imagine that there’s anything left untouched. But Genea fertility’s new app, Grow, might prove otherwise. The technology allows patients access to something never seen before – their growing embryos.

The app, which has been designed by the Australian fertility group, allows IVF patients video and photo access to their growing embryos for the five-day duration pre-transfer process. During this time patients can download these images and videos to share if they so wish.

“After being highly involved in the early part of an IVF cycle with blood tests and ultrasounds, patients can feel a little detached once their eggs and sperm are collected and developing for five days in the lab”, said Genea medical director associate professor, Mark Bowman.

The technology allows patients access to something never seen before – their growing embryos.

“Giving them access to photos and videos of their developing embryos through the Grow by Genea app will help them feel more connected and involved in the process. 

“It will also help them understand what’s happening with their embryos as the embryologist describes the development to them – seeing is believing.”

So how exactly does it work?

A Genea-designed incubator, Geri, captures time lapse footage of every single embryo that develops in the labs. Thanks to this, patients can access photos and footage on days one, three, five and six of their embryo’s development. 

“It will also help them understand what’s happening with their embryos as the embryologist describes the development to them – seeing is believing.”

Genea scientific director, Steven McArthur tells SBS that the incubator was designed to provide an “optimal environment for developing embryos outside the womb”.

Each Geri has six individual chambers so each patient’s embryos have their own personalised space.  Each of those six chambers has its own camera, working continuously to capture every incremental development of the embryos.

“As well as providing patients with the amazing experience of seeing their developing embryos, something that most parents-to-be don’t get, the images and time-lapse footage captured by Geri educates treatment decisions made by our embryologists and clinicians to a level like never before.”

As someone who’s been through IVF I know how stressful and emotional it can be. It feels like one of the longest waiting games in the world, and there’s no definitive end.  So, I can understand why this app would be appealing to so many. 

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However, personally, I’m glad that this app wasn’t available during my IVF treatments. With a definite leaning towards obsessive compulsion, I know it would only have increased my anxiety. I would have been logging on consistently and monitoring it for change.

I would have read into changes as negative and, naturally, would have consulted one of the most contradictory and stress inducing health experts in the world, Dr Google.    

With a definite leaning towards obsessive compulsion, I know it would only have increased my anxiety. I would have been logging on consistently and monitoring it for change.

Kathleen Waite, Genea’s fertility general manager, tells me that this is a valid point.

“As always, Genea had our patients in mind when we developed Grow,” explains Waite. “We understood accessing Grow and being able to see embryo development firsthand wouldn’t be the right choice for everyone.

“Grow is free and will be available to Genea patients having IVF or ICSI, but we make the point through all of our Grow documentation that everyone should decide for themselves whether it suits them or not.”

She also tells me that even if you’ve opted in for Grow, you can opt out at any time.

“Our embryologists and counsellors are available to talk with you about what you’re seeing on the app - if you do choose to access it.”

It seems that only time will tell whether the app proves to be a success. In the meantime, I hope those embryos keep developing well for all those potential parents.

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