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What is embryology and fertility treatment?

Do you want to help people with their dreams of having a family? Working in embryology and other fertility treatments will put you at the centre of one of the fastest-growing and most cutting-edge areas of medicine. 

Fertility treatments are designed for couples who are having trouble conceiving a baby by natural means. They fall into two categories:

  • Fertility drugs: This is usually the first stage of treatment. Women are prescribed drugs that stimulate hormones causing a woman to ovulate – the technical term for releasing eggs – more regularly. Men might be prescribed drugs to increase their sperm count.
  • Assisted reproductive therapies (ART) or embryology: If fertility drugs don’t work, patients might then move onto more complicated medical procedures known as Assisted Reproductive Therapies. One of the most common treatments is IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation), where an egg is taken from a woman’s ovaries and artificially fertilised before being placed back in her womb. Another treatment is Intrauterine Insemination (IUI); where sperm is injected directly into the womb.

What jobs are available in embryology or fertility treatments?

Fertility treatments are provided by the NHS and in private clinics and hospitals. ART treatments are regulated by HFEA (Human Fertility and Embryology Association). Doctors who specialise in ART are known as clinical embryologists. Clinical embryology is a part of healthcare science, so clinical embryologists who want to work for the NHS will normally need to take the Scientist Training Programme before registering with the Health Professionals Council.

Some universities offer postgraduate courses in clinical embryology for people interested in researching ART. Entry on to these courses normally requires at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree in a related subject such as medicine or biology. Trainee embryologists who have some laboratory experience can then apply to do the two year ACE (Association of Clinical Embryologists) Postgraduate Certificate course.

If you want to develop new fertility drugs you could become a pharmacologist, which would mean studying a degree or postgraduate qualification in pharmacology or biotechnology.

And, since fertility treatments can be a very emotional time for patients, both the NHS and private clinics need good, understanding nurses to make sure patients are safe and comfortable and provide them with support during the treatments.

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