Ovation Star – Meet Natalie Savage
Natalie Savage, Embryologist Before Natalie Savage became one of the amazing embryologists at Ovation Fertility® Indianapolis, she researched reproductive physiology in the animal world. While she now focuses on humans instead of animals, her passion for embryo development remains the same.
How did you get into your line of work?
Like so many embryologists, I thought that I wanted to be a veterinarian, and I knew I needed to do research to get into a good vet school.
I worked with my advisor who did a lot of work with early embryogenesis using a biodynamic imaging system to identify which embryos were suitable for transfer. I also worked in a vivarium that focused on reproductive physiology in mice and rats.
As I studied reproductive physiology, I really got hooked on it. I think it’s amazing that pregnancy is even possible because so many things need to go right in order to get a healthy embryo.
I ultimately decided not to go to vet school. Instead, I went to Purdue to earn a Master of Science in reproductive physiology. I did more research during this time and continued to fall in love with all the nuances of working with embryos. At that time, I was working with pig embryos, but I wanted to make a real difference for people. That’s when I started looking into working in an embryology lab that helped men and women on the clinical side of things.
When I started interviewing with different labs, Ovation Fertility Indianapolis stood out to me. I guess I stood out to them too because they hired me.
What is an average day of work like for you?
As embryologists, we’re doing a lot of different things every day. We come in around 6:30 in the morning to QC the incubators and prepare for the day’s egg retrievals. We’ll speak with the retrieval patients and then prepare the eggs for fertilization and fertilize them using ICSI.
Throughout the day, we’re also thawing embryos for embryo transfers and doing embryo biopsies for PGT. After all the fun hands-on work with the embryos, we complete all the paperwork.
What’s your favorite part of working for Ovation?
Ever since I first interviewed here, I have loved this lab. I immediately noticed that the lab has a great support system and wonderful camaraderie among the team members. All of us embryologists are like a tight knit family.
At a lot of labs, burnout is a real issue, but I don’t really have to worry about it at Ovation. In most labs, you’ll start out only doing semen analysis or paperwork, but we all work together to take turns doing different things. It keeps work interesting and makes me feel like I’m part of a team that really cares about each other and the patients.
I also just really love embryology. Every single embryo is unique, so you get to problem-solve to do what’s best for each embryo. It’s also amazing to share good news with patients. They’ve been through so much, and you’ve worked as hard as you can on the cellular level to get them on the path to parenthood, so telling them good news really gives you a sense of the magnitude of what you’re doing.
Can you tell me a little bit about something interesting you’ve done lately?
I’m going to be presenting embryology research at the 2022 AAB Educational Conference. The standard in reproductive medicine is to minimize the risk of pregnancies with multiples, so doctors only transfer one embryo at a time. This means clinicians have to do their best to pick the right embryo for transfer.
Embryologists have a lot of tools to help, including embryo biopsy and PGT. We also have embryo morphology, which our research focuses on. Using cameras in the incubators, we can watch embryos grow, develop and divide. For my research, I looked at two years’ worth of information to compare embryo morphology data to pregnancy success rates.
Our research found that embryos with higher dynamics and higher kinetics resulted in higher pregnancy rates. Essentially, we discovered that embryos that reached the blastocyst stage by Day 5 versus Day 6 were more likely to develop into a successful pregnancy. This finding is significant. If we can predict pregnancy outcomes using morphology data, we may not have to rely on PGT as heavily for all patients, which could save patients money.
Even though we have this great information, our research isn’t finished. Next, we’re going to be looking into how the quality of the trophectoderm (outer cell layer of the embryo) affects pregnancy rates.