IT’S a state-of-the-art machine that offers new hope to childless couples desperately trying to start a family.

And a Southampton fertility clinic is one of the first five in the world to have the pioneering piece of equipment.

It only arrived two weeks ago but the Early Embryo Viability Assessment test (Eeva) is already being trialled by ten couples at Wessex Fertility hoping to fall pregnant on their first cycle of IVF.

Currently the clinic, in Anglesea Road, Shirley, has an average 40 per cent pregnancy success rate following treatment but this breakthrough technology, worth about £100,000, could boost that to up to 65 per cent.

Previously, clinicians would have to take embryos out of an incubator and look down a microscope at them to determine how they were dividing, giving them just one snapshot of time.

But Evea, using intelligent software, monitors the embryo during its first three cell divisions, without needing to remove it from the incubator, giving a full picture of how well the embryo is dividing throughout this vital stage.

This not only allows staff to reduce any disturbance caused by moving the embryos but also scores each embryo on its potential to lead to a pregnancy.

By being able to spot critical and subtle differences between embryos that would normally be missed, informed decisions can be made on which one is best to be implanted into the womb.

Embryology manager Tony Price said: “The problem we had before with embryos is that we would be faced with a batch of them and we would have to work out which was the most likely to achieve pregnancy. Eeva gives us a much better idea of which embryo is better quality and has the most potential of making a baby.”

Each cycle of IVF can cost up to £5,000 so increasing the success rate not only reduces the stress of going through such an emotional ordeal, it also reduces the cost for a couple. An additional £800 is charged for Eeva.