Advantages of PGD
PGD is short for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Yes, you can see why everyone just calls it PGD. This cutting edge medical technique allows couples from families with serious, inherited diseases can screen embryos to ensure that their child does not suffer. Essentially, it means checking the embryos before they are implanted into the womb and produces what the press, rather unhelpfully, tend to call ‘designer babies’.
Because the DNA of the sperm or the egg, or sometimes both, needs to be examined, IVF must be used as the infertility treatment. This advanced genetic testing can also be recommended if you’ve had a number of abortions because your baby carried a serious genetic condition or if you already have a child with the disease.
PGS is a version of PGD and stands for pre-implantation genetic screening. Although it sounds like it means exactly the same thing, it’s a slightly different process that looks for abnormalities in chromosomes rather than testing for specific genes. It’s usually offered to older women who have experienced miscarriages and who are more likely to have children with chromosomal problems.
What happens in PGD?
The ever-improving technique of PGD can be used to test for over 100 different genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, haemophilia and sickle-cell anaemia. Your doctor will be able to advise whether it’s possible for you. Counselling is all part of this process, in order to help you come to the right decision. In addition to the standard risks of undergoing IVF, couples must bear in mind that their embryos are more likely to be damaged by the process and that testing cannot at the moment be considered 100% effective at spotting genetic defects.
If you decide to bite the bullet and go ahead, then you’ll undergo IVF in the normal way. The only different will be that your embryologist will remove one or two cells from your 3-day old embryos in order to do the genetic screening. Removing a quarter of a potential baby’s cells for PGD sounds pretty extreme (it would leave an adult in rather bad shape!), but many embryos survive the process and simply replace the cells. Some clinics may let the embryo develop for longer in what’s called a trophectoderm biopsy and it’s thought that this can be more accurate, as more cells can be removed and tested.
Either way, the cells that have been removed are tested to see if the gene causing the inherited condition is present. Unaffected embryos will then be transferred back into the woman’s womb in the usual way following PGD.
What are my chances of having a healthy baby with PGD?
Sometimes, an IVF cycle won’t produce any usable embryos, especially if the process of PGD damages them, or all of them carry the disease-causing gene.
With this emerging medical technology, success rates are always improving but generally, around 30 per cent of cycles result in a live birth for women under the age of 37.
At InterTrust Fertility, our excellent, expert staff will take every couple choosing ICSI or PGD under their wings and ensure their experience is as comfortable as possible. We also pride ourselves on the affordability of these sometimes overprice treatments at some UK clinics.