As part of our public engagement programme, we had the pleasure to host an extremely fascinating event ‘Time-lapse Imaging and the Debate on Evidence: A Social Science Perspective’, which we organised with the Progress Educational Trust (PET). For this event, we invited professionals involved in various aspects of IVF treatment to discuss, in a joint open conversation, some findings from our research regarding evidence production in IVF and patients’ perspectives on time-lapse embryo imaging.

In a two-and-a-half hour virtual meeting, Sarah Norcross, Jen Willows and Sandy Starr from PET moderated discussions in three break-out groups composed of gynaecologists, embryologists, nurses and counsellors who specialise in fertility. Project lead, Manuela, and researcher, Josie, introduced the project and its main results concerning the production of evidence in relation to time-lapse embryo imaging tools, and patients’ experiences of receiving videos of embryo development produced by these tools.

First, the three groups discussed the role of evidence in relation to IVF treatment and time-lapse embryo imaging in particular. Questions were raised about how evidence should be produced in the field of IVF, what counts as evidence and how different kinds of evidence production may be taken into account when making decisions about offering certain tools or treatments. Some conversation happened around how different perspectives come into play when considering time-lapse embryo imaging devices as lab equipment rather than as a part of treatment. Some of the discussions encouraged us to pay attention to the benefits for each actor involved when a new tool is being used in the lab. A few participants were especially interested in the underlying economic implications of considering time-lapse embryo imaging as an add-on to fertility treatment or, on the contrary, an investment for the lab. Some underlined how these two are embedded elements of IVF services when it comes to the private sector.

Manuela and Josie also called the audience’s attention to the need for fertility professionals to reflect upon how time-lapse embryo videos are shared with patients, where this happens, and when in relation to patients’ treatment and medical encounters. Workshop participants were confronted with quotes and questions about patients’ relationships to embryo images and videos during and after IVF treatment and they were asked to reflect upon their own professional experience with this. Counsellors especially shared experiences about patients who had particular relationships to visuals during treatment and underlined how communication around such imagery is key to patients’ understanding of their treatment.

At the end of the workshop, some of the participants expressed their intention to build reflections that emerged from the workshop into their work practice, especially about how and when to share images and videos with patients, and how to make this a positive experience for them.