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expert reaction to a study, review and editorial looking at the effect on perinatal outcomes of different IVF culture media

Three articles published in the journal Human Reproduction have examined the effect of different liquids used for maintaining IVF embryos and report that the composition can influence success of implantation and pregnancy as well as other factors.

All our previous output on this subject can be seen here.


Prof. Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology, University of Sheffield, said:

“This is an interesting set of papers (a randomised controlled trial, a review paper and an editorial) which all suggest that the time has come for the manufacturers of embryo culture media used in IVF to be clear about exactly what they put in them.

“Embryo culture media is the fluid in which embryos created in IVF spend the first few days before they are transferred into the uterus of the woman who is planning to become pregnant. The media is supplied by a variety of commercial companies but its contents are a closely guarded secret.

“Those involved in IVF have been debating for some time whether the composition of one media or another had the possibility of changing how well the baby would grow and develop in the womb if the woman did become pregnant. But until now the data has not been sufficiently clear about whether or not this is something we should be worried about.

“However, this randomised controlled trial appears to be of high quality, has been conducted in a large number of patients, and carried out at a number of different clinics. As such, it’s now hard to ignore their conclusion that the embryo culture media does indeed seem to be able to affect a number of different perinatal outcomes of the babies born some nine months later. Whether these effects are likely to have life-long health consequences for IVF children is unclear at this stage, but I think the time has certainly come to ask the manufacturers of these media to be upfront and clear about what they put in them.

“That way better studies could be designed and professionals could make informed choices about what media to choose based upon what it may or may not contain. It beggars belief that in this day and age of food labelling and the regulation of medicines that this is not already done.”


Influence of embryo culture medium (G5 and HTF) on pregnancy and perinatal outcome after IVF: a multicenter RCT’ by Sander H.M. Kleijkers et al. published in Human Reproduction on Wednesday 24th August 2016. 


Time to take human embryo culture seriously’ by Arne Sunde et al. published in Human Reproduction on Wednesday 24th August 2016. 


Peanut butter’ by Hans Evers published in Human Reproduction on Wednesday 24th August 2016. 


Declared interests

Prof. Allan Pacey: “Chairman of the advisory committee of the UK National External Quality Assurance Schemes in Andrology, Editor in Chief of Human Fertility and Trustee of the Progress Educational Trust (all unpaid). Also, recent work for the World Health Organisation, British Broadcasting Corporation, Purple Orchid Pharma (paid consultancy with all monies going to University of Sheffield). Co-applicant on a research grant from the Medical Research Council (ref: MR/M010473/1).”

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