After two failed cycles of infertility treatment, Priya Shah (name changed) had almost given up hope of having a having a baby.
“We had been married for three years and I was tired of relatives asking me when we were going to have children,” said the 30-year-old finance professional.
While Priya suffered from hormonal imbalance, her husband’s low sperm count further complicated her chances for getting pregnant. In July, doctors suggested that the couple try a new technique that involved magnifying the image of the sperms 7,200 times under a powerful microscope thereby allowing them to pick the healthier sperms.
The technique called, Intra-Cytoplasmic Morphologically Selected Sperm Injection (IMSI), cost an additional Rs 20,000. But the Shahs decided to go ahead and try it. “We were so anxious. But this time the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) worked,” said Shah, who is currently in her third month of pregnancy.
Doctors said that the IMSI technique could help childless couples where the husband suffers from male factor infertility or defects in the sperm. Using IMSI doctors can magnify the image of the sperm to check motility (the ability of sperm to move towards an egg) and appearance to pick the healthier ones for fertilisation.
“In most cases, doctors use the husband’s sperm to coagulate with the wife’s egg. But there are cases where the sperm count is low. IMSI can help in such cases as doctors can use a medical microscope attached to the computer to select good sperms,” said Dr Hrishikesh Pai, IVF specialist from Lilavati Hospital, who treated Shah.
Though Shah is happy with the results, independent doctors said that they would wait a little longer before they prescribe it as a standardised technique for IVF treatments.
“Few international peer reviewed studies have suggested that IMSI has a significantly higher pregnancy and significantly lower abortion rates,” said Dr Shah.
According to Dr Kedar Gangla, IVF specialist, LH Hiranandani Hospital, using sperms that appear to be healthier could improve the chances of fertilisation as well as the ability of embryo to get implanted in the uterus.
“Many of my patients have had previous failures with IVF, and a majority of them have never conceived before. There is definitely an increased success rate with IMSI, especially in severe male factor infertility,” said Dr Nandita Palshetkar, IVF specialist, Lilavati Hospital.
The technique has been available in India since 2008 and doctors say it’s too early to dissect its effectiveness. “We have ordered for the IMSI equipment, but are skeptical about using it because we do not know the effect of long time exposure of sperms to high magnification and light,” said Dr Indira Hinduja, an infertility specialist, PD Hinduja Hospital.
“Many hospitals buy this as a marketing gimmick, to promote the ‘newest and latest’ technique,” said Dr Aniruddha Malpani, IVF specialist, Malpani Infertility Clinic.