New hope for couples with recurrent miscarriages


by KING 5 HealthLink

Posted on February 12, 2011 at 12:21 AM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Sheila Gruber tried for six years to have a baby. Her problem was not getting getting pregnant, but staying pregnant. She miscarried three times.

"It's hard to go through the miscarriages," she said.

According to Dr Michael Opsahl, Sheila's situation is not common, but it does happen.

"Recurrent miscarriages occur in about one in every 500 couples and they're often due to abnormal chromosomes in the embryo," says Opsahl.

Sheila became the first local patient to undergo a relatively new in vitro fertilization (IVF) approach that dramatically increased her odds of having a baby. It involves genetic testing of the embryos.

"We can remove a single cell from one of the embryos or from each embryo and do a genetic analysis to find out which embryos have the normal chromosomes," says Opsahl. "We transfer those embryos into the woman's uterus and hope they become babies."

This new genetic testing step takes only 24-48 hours and analyzes all the chromosomes; the old method looked at only half, took more time and was costly because the embryos had to be frozen. This way doctors can have more confidence in the results.

"A normal IVF cycle in the United States has a success rate of about 45 percent. Our success rate with this technique in young women under 35 is about 65 percent to 75 percent," says Dr. Opsahl.

In Sheila's case, 20 percent were good embryos, but being able to isolate that 20 percent was enough to bring baby Vienna into the world.

"It's been a rough road, but getting here it's so worth it," she said.

Abnormal chromosomes in the embryo are not not only reason for recurrent miscarriages. There can also be hormonal imbalances, blood clotting disorders, and uterine abnormalities. 

Dr. Opsahl was formerly with Northwest Center For Reproductive Sciences which has now merged with Seattle Reproductive Medicine.