While the final outcome of an IVF cycle is uncertain, a good clinic will usually be able to make good embryos - after all, this is their core competence ! However, many clinics do not bother to show patients their embryos, and I feel this is a big mistake.
We routinely show all patients their embryos, and provide them with a photograph of their embryos. We feel this is important for us - and for them.
For one thing, it allows us to be open and transparent. We work hard at trying to get our patients pregnant, and if they can see their own embryos, patients know that we have done everything which was humanly possible. This gives them peace of mind, even if the cycle fails, because they know that the medical treatment they have received has been of high quality.
It's also very good for reinforcing the patient's trust in our clinical competence. Often patients don't have a clue as to what happens in the clinic. By sharing this information with them and showing them their embryos, they can see the tangible output of our efforts.
It also gives us a chance to educate our patients; to explain to them what we are doing; and why we select the embryos we do. It's a great form of Quality Control for us as well - knowing that we have to show patients their embryos keeps us on our toes and performing at our peak !
What happens is the embryos are of poor quality ? We will still make it a point to show these to patients. This way, even if the cycle fails, at least they know the reason why it did; and this helps us to prepare an alternative treatment plan for the next cycle.
Seeing their own embryos can be a very emotional moment for patients, and we appreciate this. Most patients think of their embryos as their babies - and it gives them a chance to bond, even before the transfer !
I am not sure why all clinics don't do this. After all, it's better to share as much information as possible with patients , rather than to hide key facts.
Importantly, this photographic documentation also demonstrates to referring doctors that we are very confident of our technical abilities. IVF clinics which make good embryos have to be good at their job !
It also helps to educate the family. People often don't understand what happens in an IVF clinic; and why the success rates are not 100 %. When they see that an embryo is just a ball of cells and not a baby, they are better able to understand why every patient does not get a baby at the end of each cycle.
Providing patients with the photographs also helps them to get a second opinion, if they want to do so.
Finally, embryo photos are the best way to start a baby album , so they can show their baby how hard they had to work to give birth to her !