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Does the type of medium used to culture fresh and frozen-thawed embryos influence neonatal birthweight after single embryo transfer (SET) in IVF? A comparison of two commercially available culture media showed no significant influence on mean birthweight and mean birthweight adjusted for gestational age, gender and parity (z-scores) of singletons born after a fresh or frozen-thawed SET. Furthermore, we show that embryo freezing and thawing cycles may lead to a significantly higher mean birthweight. Animal studies have shown that culture media constituents are responsible for changes in birthweight of offspring. In human IVF, there is still little knowledge of the effect of medium type on birthweight. Until now, only a small number of commercially available culture media have been investigated (Vitrolife, Cook(®) Medical and IVF online medium). Our study adds new information: it has a larger population of singleton births compared with the previously published studies, it includes outcomes of other media types (HTF and Sage(®)), not previously analysed, and it includes data on frozen-thawed SETs. This study was a retrospective analysis of birthweights of singleton newborns after fresh (Day 3) or frozen-thawed (Day 5) SET cycles, using embryos cultured in either of two different types of commercially available culture media, between 2008 and 2011. Before January 2009, a single-step culture medium was used: human tubal fluid (HTF) with 4 mg/ml human serum albumin. From January 2009 onwards, a commercially available sequential medium was introduced: Sage(®), Quinn's advantage protein plus medium. Singletons born after a fresh SET (99 embryos cultured in HTF and 259 in Sage(®)) and singletons born after a frozen-thawed SET (32 embryos cultured in HTF only, 41 in HTF and Sage(®) and 86 in Sage(®) only) were analysed. Only patients using autologous gametes without the use of a gestational carrier were considered. Also excluded were (vanishing) twins, triplets, babies with congenital or chromosomal abnormalities and babies born before 22 weeks of gestation. Analysis of 358 singletons born after a fresh SET and 159 singletons born after a frozen-thawed SET showed no significant difference between the HTF and Sage(®) groups in terms of birthweight. Gestational age, parity and gender of the baby were significantly related to birthweight in multiple linear regression analyses, and other possible confounding factors included maternal age, BMI and smoking, the number of blastomeres in the transferred embryo and the type of culture medium. Maternal age, BMI and smoking, gestational age at birth, gender of the baby and the percentage of firstborns did not differ significantly between the HTF and Sage(®) groups; however, among the fresh embryos, those cultured in Sage(®) had significantly more blastomeres at the time of embryo transfer compared with the embryos cultured in HTF. Birthweights adjusted for gestational age and gender or gestational age and parity (z-scores) were not significantly different between the HTF and Sage(®) groups for fresh or frozen-thawed SETs. Mean birthweight, as well as the mean birthweight among firstborns and the mean birthweights adjusted for gestational age and gender or parity (z-scores) were significantly higher in the cryopreservation group compared with the fresh embryo transfer group. Our study is limited by its retrospective design and only two commercially available types of culture media were tested. More research is necessary to investigate the potential influence of culture media on gene expression. Although our data do not indicate the major influences of the HTF and Sage(®) culture media on birthweight, our results cannot be extrapolated to other culture media types. Furthermore, there remains a potential influence of embryo culture environment on epigenetic variation not represented by birthweight differences but by more subtle features.


Carlijn G Vergouw, E Hanna Kostelijk, Els Doejaaren, Peter G A Hompes, Cornelis B Lambalk, Roel Schats. The influence of the type of embryo culture medium on neonatal birthweight after single embryo transfer in IVF. Human reproduction (Oxford, England). 2012 Sep;27(9):2619-26

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PMID: 22791752

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