SEED offers an insight into the experience of undergoing fertility treatment, through a series of portraits and clinical imagery created at Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life between 2016-2019.
Worldwide, one in six couples struggle to become parents. Current success rates of IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) vary from 32.2% to 1.9% and depend on the age of the woman and the cause of infertility.
The couples who took part in SEED had a range of fertility diagnoses and had either IVF or ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) to help them become pregnant.
Out of the sixteen couples that took part in SEED, five had a baby from their first cycle. Two couples went on to have a baby from a Frozen Embryo Transfer and one couple became pregnant from their second treatment cycle.
SEED: Egg Collection
Egg collection documents women minutes before they have their eggs harvested. In IVF the ovaries are stimulated to produce several eggs to increase the chances of pregnancy.
A woman must have enough follicles larger than 16mm to have her eggs harvested. Follicles are the tiny fluid sacs that grow on the ovary and contain the eggs. Any smaller, and the chance of retrieving mature eggs, and then fertilisation, are too low. Too few, and the chance of success may be too low to balance with the risk of undergoing the procedure.
The more eggs there are, the greater the chance of achieving fertilisation, an embryo to transfer and ultimately a pregnancy. It is a pivotal moment in the treatment cycle.
SEED: First Portraits
First portraits capture the point at which patients see their embryo for the first time. At this stage patients are shown their embryo (either at three-days old or as a five-day-old blastocyst) on a monitor before it is transferred into the patient.
Many patients use their mobile phone to take a picture of their embryo on the monitor – their baby’s first photographic portrait or perhaps the only photographic record.
Embryologists are scientists involved in fertility treatment and reproductive research. They collect eggs, assess and prepare sperm samples and perform detailed procedures in the fertility treatment cycle. In ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) they select the most morphologically normal sperm and inject it directly into a mature egg; at egg transfer they select which embryo should be transferred.
Embryologists have a strong scientific background: a Life Science degree plus 4 years as a trainee embryologist. They are trained to the highest standard to ensure quality and consistency in their decision-making. They need finely tuned interpersonal skills to be able to communicate complex information to patients in stressful and emotional circumstances.
SEED has been facilitated by the Fertility Centre at Life, Newcastle upon Tyne; funded using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and supported by NEPN.
SEED was presented at Fertility 2017, Fertility Fest 2018, Great Exhibition of the North 2019; Newcastle Centre for Life 2018, and most recently in the NEPN-curated group exhibition Observe Experiment Archive at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
Sophie was selected for the NEPN DEVELOP Award in 2016 and received the RPS Peter Hansell Scholarship Fund in 2017. She has an MA in Photography from University of Sunderland. Her MA project Known/Unknown was exhibited in a solo exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery in 2010, which led her to being selected as an Emerging British Photographer by the Canadian Publisher Magenta in 2011.