All About the Embryo

Becoming pregnant is serious business at Viera Fertility Center. Every day we see couples who are seeking to become parents, and it all starts with an embryo. Embryos are the miracles that become babies and bring immeasurable joy to their parents’ lives. While many people understand they want a child, they may not understand exactly how that child came to be. The focus of this week’s blog will be all about the embryo.

What is an Embryo?

Every man and woman is equipped with sex cells called gametes. These are haploid cells full of genetic material that are designed to meet and fuse together. Under a very specific set of miracles when these two cells do meet, they become one and are called a zygote. The multiplication of cells once these two gametes meet happens instantly. The zygote will travel down the fallopian tube and, hopefully implant into the uterus. Once implanted, development continues and the mass of cells develops into an embryo. At eight weeks of pregnancy an embryo changes status and becomes a fetus, but this eight weeks is quite a miracle indeed.

During the first month of pregnancy the embryo develops a watertight sac. This will become known as the amniotic sac. This sac is extremely important because it cushions the embryo and eventually the fetus as it grows in the uterus. Next the placenta begins to develop. This organ is one of the most important in human development. The placenta is responsible for transferring all nutrients from the mother to the baby, and waste away from the baby. During this period a resemblance of a face also begins to appear. Spaces for eyes form, as well as a mouth, jaw, and throat. A primitive circulatory system begins to develop as well as the blood cells. At the end of the fourth week, a tiny little heart “tube” will begin beating 65 times per minute, and the little embryo will be ¼ or an inch long.

During it’s last month as an embryo little ears begin to form as well as buds that will become arms and legs. A tube of what will become neural tissue also forms as well as a digestive tract, sensory organs and bones begin to form. At six weeks the heartbeat can be clearly detected, and at the end of eight weeks, the embryo has graduated to a fetus.

An Embryo’s Journey

While the scenario described above is ideal, conception and embryo development isn’t always so easy. That is where we come in. For some women maturing an ovum in the first place is difficult. For some men creating high quality sperm that can meet the egg as it is released is a problem. For these couples, the hopes of a family seem to fly out the window. But, if they have been trying for more than one year without success, a battery of tests at our Melbourne, Florida fertility center can reveal the problem behind the couple’s fertility issues, and offer many possible treatment options.

Being unable to create and embryo is a problem for many couples, however there are many different ways that fertility doctors can circumvent the problems and enable a healthy couple to conceive. A journey to an embryo often starts with fertility medication. There are several types of medications used to spur female fertility. They are often a cocktail of hormones that either encourage the maturing, or release of an oocyte. If a woman is simply having trouble maturing an egg for conception, these drugs may result in a zygote and embryo after intercourse. If a male partner’s sperm is not able to reach the egg Intrauterine Insemination can hasten the fertilization of the cells and begin the journey of an embryo to fetus, and eventually child. However, sometimes couples don’t even have it that easy.

In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer

In some cases the embryo must be created outside of the woman’s body. There are two types of therapies that can enable this type of implantation and pregnancy. They are In-Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer. Both begin with stimulation of the ovaries with hormonal fertility medications. This will mature female gametes for egg retrieval. After the eggs are retrieved during an ultrasound-guided procedure, they can be fertilized in a lab with sperm collected from the father. After this the zygotes are able to develop into embryos in the laboratory. According to the parents’ wishes and the fertility doctor’s careful observations one to three embryos will be transferred into the uterus which will be ready for implantation. If the embryo is able to implant the parents will soon have a pregnancy on their hands and a precious embryo to care for for exactly eight weeks – after that it’s onto fetus development, and child rearing.  

The journey of an embryo is a miracle indeed. If you are having a difficult time creating an embryo, call our Melbourne, Florida Fertility Center today!