Technology Advances In Fertility Treatment

During an insightful interview on, Dr Sulaiman Heylen – a reproductive medicine specialist and director of Cape Fertility in Cape Town – spoke about the technology advances that have shaped modern fertility treatments and where to find these in Cape Town in South Africa.

What fertility specialists are doing today is very different from what they did 20 years ago. The treatment of infertility is actually a very exciting scientific domain, with interesting innovations as well as technology advancements progressing quickly.

In fact, there have been several major technology developments that have transformed fertility treatment since the first successful in vitro fertilization – or IVF – treatment in the late 1970s. IVF revolutionised fertility treatment, making it possible to conceive a child where it was medically impossible before.

Very simply stated, during in vitro fertilization, the female partner’s eggs (or eggs from a donor) are collected and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory. The resulting embryo is then implanted into the mother-to-be’s uterus.

Several technology advancements have enhanced the success rate of IVF and other fertility treatments. These include automatic sperm analysis, ICSI, laser biopsy, time lapse technology, Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PSG) and Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), all of which are very exciting developments that have improved IVF pregnancy rates.

Automated sperm analysis

A significant innovation in terms of the treatment of male infertility is automated sperm analysis. Traditionally, sperm samples would be analysed under a microscope, based on visual information. Today, thanks to automated sperm analysis, sperm samples are now checked and automatically analysed by a computer.

Since 2017, Cape Fertility has provided our patients with access to a Sperm Class Analyzer CASA System. The computer analysis is more accurate than an analysis done by a person, and this improves the chances of a pregnancy.


Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection or ICSI revolutionised male infertility treatment. Before ICSI, it was very difficult to treat male infertility. But now, nearly every man can have his own biological child, as long as there is sperm.

During conventional IVF treatment the eggs are fertilised in an advanced laboratory by mixing the eggs ‘in vitro’ (in glass) with thousands of washed sperm. This procedure is replaced by ICSI in certain cases, which allows the egg to be fertilised by injecting one healthy sperm directly into the egg using a micromanipulation microscope.

Time lapse technology

Once the eggs are fertilised in the IVF process, they are called embryos and they are placed in incubators to grow for a few days. Here another technology has significantly improved success rates: time lapse technology.

At Cape Fertility, our patients have access to EmbryoScope(tm) IVF incubators with built-in cameras for continuous automated imaging. These images are combined into a time lapse video of the embryo over five days.

This prevents the embryos being removed from the incubator every second day so embryologists can track their progress, reducing the stress experienced by the embryo, and resulting in better embryos and higher pregnancy rates.

It also provides a lot more information about the embryos, so that the embryologists can choose between normal developing embryos with good implantation potential and development patterns with a risk of implantation failure.

This technology has been used in more than 50,000 treatments worldwide and has been reported to improve pregnancy rates and reduce the rate of miscarriage. At Cape Fertility, our statistics show that the EmbryoScope(tm) gives a 10% higher clinical pregnancy rate and 10% higher blastocyst rate (good embryos) than standard incubators. You can read more about this technology here.

Laser-assisted biopsy

Laser-assisted biopsy is used to facilitate removal of a few cells from an embryo in incubation. This allows for high quality genetic testing as discussed below. The procedures are performed by embryologists that highly experienced in the complex process of embryo biopsy.

Pre-implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) and Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

Another technological advancement is an exciting development for genetic evaluation of the embryo and has further improved the success rate of implantation of embryos: Pre-implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) and Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD).

Without this kind of testing, embryos are usually chosen based on their visual aspect. Now, however, with Pre-implantation Genetic Screening and Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis, fertility specialists can remove a few cells from an embryo that is three or five days old in the lab, and test these for genetic diseases and for chromosomal abnormalities. By testing embryos for these chromosomal abnormalities before implantation, only normal embryos are transferred, significantly improving success rates.

Pre-implantation Genetic Screening can detect chromosome abnormalities or chromosomal rearrangements, and also assesses the full chromosome compliment of an embryo. All 24 chromosomes are examined – the 22 non-sex chromosomes as well as the two sex ones, X and Y – before the embryo transfer takes place. This allows embryologists to choose embryos that have a normal number of chromosomes and are therefore more likely to result in a pregnancy. This technology is particularly useful in older women or couples who have previously had repeated failed IVF cycles.

Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis is a laboratory procedure that is used to help detect single gene diseases. Families affected by an inherited disease can reduce the risk of passing it onto their offspring using IVF with Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis.

Both Pre-implantation Genetic Screening and Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis have been available at Cape Fertility since 2003 and you can read more about these technologies here.

Technologies of the future

Moving into the future, a successful transplant of a uterus was completed recently in Sweden. This means that women who were previously unable to carry a pregnancy because they had no uterus may in future have the option of having a new uterus from somebody else transplanted. While this is not yet widely available and not yet in South Africa, the technology does exist.
Some other fascinating future developments are also afoot, such as the so-called ‘artificial wombs’ which could allow out of body gestation and open the possibility of motherless births in future. There is research ongoing, but it will be decades before it could become clinically available.

Where to find these technologies in Cape Town in South Africa?

You will find all these technology innovations at Cape Fertility.

Offering our patients access to all the advanced technology available is not only one of the reasons why Cape Fertility is a top fertility clinic in South Africa, it is also one of the reasons why Cape Fertility maintains such high pregnancy success rates.

Our state of the art facilities are purpose built, and adjacent to our Main Reception and Staff Offices are our dedicated IVF Procedure Rooms, Embryo Transfer Rooms and a modern sophisticated laboratory that allows all the latest assisted conception techniques to be used with great success.

Cape Fertility is also continuously investing in new high quality technology and this enables us to deliver superior service. We offer access to many technologies that are not available in standard IVF clinics and therefore we can offer better results.

If you would like access to the latest technology advances that have proven to increase the success of the IVF treatment process, simply contact us by clicking here

At Cape Fertility, we value each individual patient and we look forward to providing you with our signature individualised and personalised care.