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IVF 101: What You Need to Know

Five million babies have been born since IVF assisted with the birth of the world’s first “test tube” baby in 1978. The first IVF baby, Louise Joy Brown, was born in Great Britain in 1978.

Before that ground breaking birth, women who had fallopian tube blockages (20 per cent of infertile women) had no hope of becoming pregnant.

Today IVF is used to help couples conceive with a wide range of problems including poor sperm quality in males, women who don’t ovulate regularly and age factors. Thanks to this phenomenal procedure, each year millions of people, that might not have been able to conceive, are able to enjoy the miracle of having a baby.

A word of warning, however! IVF and other assisted reproductive techniques (ART) should not be a couple’s first resort to creating a healthy baby. Ensuring you and your partner’s bodies are as healthy as possible prior to a conception attempt and ensuring impediments to a natural conception are removed often will help you avoid the need to go down this path all together. The 120 day preconception preparation is what has enabled a great number of my patients to succeed through IVF where previous ART failures had been the only result.

In Vitro Fertilisation – What is IVF?

IVF, or in vitro fertilisation, is a form of assisted conception where fertilisation takes place in a laboratory dish rather than inside a woman’s fallopian tubes. Depending on a woman’s age, anywhere between one and 30 follicles will begin to develop in each menstrual cycle. One of these developing follicles will dominate and be ovulated during each menstrual cycle. With IVF the goal is to keep FSH levels constant to encourage more follicles to develop mature eggs, which are then collected surgically.

How IVF works

The eggs are then fertilised in a lab, cultured for a few days and then one, possibly two embryos (dependant on medical history, age and other factors) are transferred back into the woman’s uterus. The steps can be broken down in the following order:

  • Stimulate the ovaries with injections of FSH
  • Prevent premature ovulation (the LH surge) by shutting down communication between the brain and the ovaries, so the eggs are not lost before they can be collected
  • Trigger ovulation by replacing the LH surge at mid-cycle with an injection of hCG
  • Collect the eggs and sperm
  • Allow fertilisation
  • Culture embryos in the laboratory for 2-5 days
  • Transfer the embryo/s
  • Support the endometrium in the luteal phase with progesterone

IVF Success Rates

Pregnancy_IVF 101 Consultation

The chances of conception through IVF have come a long way over the years although it still depends on a number of factors including age as well as sperm quality and the woman’s health. According to health organisation American Pregnancy, some 30 to 35 per cent of women under the age of 35 have a successful pregnancy and birth after one cycle of IVF; this drops down to around 20 per cent success rates for women aged 38-40. Out of these numbers, almost 90 per cent of women will have a baby within three or less cycles of IVF.

Risks of IVF ICIS & ART

The odds of major birth defects in babies using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a widely used fertility treatment, where the sperm is directly injected into an egg, are 57 per cent higher compared with those conceived naturally, according to a recent University of Adelaide study.

The research found that while there is a 5.8 per cent risk of birth defects for babies conceived naturally, there is a 9.9 per cent risk for babies conceived using ICSI. The chance of birth defects for babies conceived using IVF is 7.2 per cent. Considering those odds are only just 1.4 per cent higher than naturally conceived babies, the issue is more with ICSI and this procedure should be used only when necessary not as a first port of call.

According to the authors of the study freezing the embryos substantially reduced the risk of birth defects, particularly for ICSI. As far as the IVF procedure itself ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is the biggest issue of concern during the actual process. And it’s fair to say most IVF clinics and fertility specialists these days are incredibly careful to prevent its development. The only other area of concern is the potential for increased female reproductive cancer development as a result of use of IVF drugs. Further studies are required for more understanding in this area.

How Much Does IVF Cost?

In Australia an IVF cycle costs around about $8000-$11000 upfront, but with Medicare and private health insurance rebates, the final out of pocket expenses come to about $3000-$6000. Of course, worldwide associated costs depend on which country you are getting treatment. Assisted reproductive methods are one of the modern wonders of medical science and should be used when appropriate.

American Pregnancy, www.americanpregnancy.org

Davies, M 2012, ‘Higher risk of birth defects from assisted reproduction’, New England Journal of Medicine, www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1008095

The key to success with IVF is to ensure it’s not used too early during one’s fertility journey and ideally never before both prospective parents are in optimal health and with the healthiest possible egg and sperm in order to assist in the creation of the healthiest possible embryo and baby.

To learn more about optimal fertility health join the Fertility Challenge, a series of fertility insights and proactive steps to remove infertility factors in your home and lifestyle and significantly boost your fertility health when trying to conceive naturally or with artificial reproductive therapies like IVF/ICIS. Sign up today to begin your journey to enhanced natural fertility.

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About Gabriela Rosa MScM, ND

We help couples struggling with fertility difficulties and recurrent miscarriages for over 2 years take home healthy babies, even when other treatments have failed. The Fertility Challenge online event is FREE and works to redefine fertility and empower couples through a proven, interactive and transformational 12-day journey on their path to parenthood. We have now successfully educated and inspired over 100,000 people in 100+ countries toward their dream of becoming a parent. Click Here to Register Today.