Alease Daniel, who's an embryologist, does explainers on TikTok and Instagram to raise awareness on her work.
Alease Daniel is an embryologist who's helping raise awareness of infertility among other things on TikTok. She works at a North Carolina fertility clinic and is helping educate her followers on various topics surrounding her work. The 26-year-old also helps busts myths and misconceptions about infertility. "I saw that our patients had a lot of questions for us about the process, what was happening in the lab, and I really wanted a way to give them that information," said Daniel, reported Good Morning America. "And I figured if our patients don't know it, there are patients all over the place who don't know."
Daniel explained that her role as an embryologist requires her to be in charge of the in-vitro fertilization process and take responsibility for the embryo from the time of egg retrieval to when an embryo is implanted into the uterus. "You're the one responsible for growing embryos, freezing embryos, thawing embryos, all the stuff that happens in the IVF lab," described Daniel as the responsibility of an embryologist. She is keen to raise awareness of infertility. According to the National Institutes of Health, 9% of men and about 11% of women of reproductive age are affected by fertility problems in the United States. Daniels explains the five myths of infertility.
Myth 1: Infertility only concerns a woman
Daniels said many of the questions she's asked on TikTok point to the reality of a majority assuming infertility to be a women's issue. "A lot of people going into fertility are thinking that it's the egg source, not necessarily the sperm source, which is not the case. There are a lot of reasons for infertility," she said, before explaining that men assume their sperm is fine if they are ejaculating. "Just because someone is ejaculating doesn't mean that there is sperm in the ejaculate," she said before explaining that it's an issue that doesn't really pertain to any gender.
It's also common for infertility specialists to examine men as much as women."A semen analysis is probably one of the top tests that I would recommend for a couple to get because it's very cheap, it's efficient and you get a lot of information from it," she said.
Myth 2: IVF guarantees a successful pregnancy
Daniels said a majority assume IVF is a sure shot at having a baby when it simply isn't true. "I would say the biggest misconception about IVF, in general, is that IVF guarantees a baby," said Daniel. IVF involves removing a woman's eggs, fertilizing them in the laboratory, and then transferring the embryos into the woman's uterus, as per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We have lots of patients who have done multiple cycles, multiple back-to-back with their eggs, with donor gametes, and they still don't have the little one they've been working towards," she said.
Myth 3: Embryo grading same at every fertility clinic
Embryo grading is a tool that embryologists use to determine which embryos need to be frozen and transferred. "We want to make sure an embryo can survive everything we're putting it under," said Daniel. "When you're seeing your embryo grades, it's really a great way for an embryologist to know that this embryo has a better chance of surviving." She urged patients to ask their physician or clinic if they grade their embryos.
Myth 4: Fertility clinic mix-ups are common
Given that embryo mix-ups often make the headlines, it gives the impression that it's a common mistake clinics make, but Daniel assures us nothing could be farther from the truth. "That is a big fear of patients," said Daniel. "Because [fertility] is such a big field and such an important field with a lot of emotions involved, when there is a mistake, it's everywhere ... but it is very unlikely for things like that to happen." She urged patients to enquire about a clinic's 'chain-of-custody when it comes to protecting embryos. "If they can't give you an answer, or they can't give you an answer that you're satisfied with, it may not be the best place," said Daniel. Chain of custody is for identifying who's responsible for handling sperm, oocytes, and embryos through every step of the IVF process, starting with egg retrieval, as per the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.