5 Things You Need to Know About IVF
Low sperm count, endometriosis, problems with ovulation, blocked fallopian tubes—any of these complications can make it difficult for a couple to conceive. Thankfully, treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) make it possible to become pregnant despite these conditions.
Other alternatives for couples trying to get pregnant include fertility drugs, artificial insemination, and surgery. However you decide to proceed with treatment, it’s important to understand your options.
- What is IVF Treatment?
IVF is a procedure that assists with the conception of a child that can help a woman become pregnant. Essentially, the goal of IVF is to transfer a fertilized egg into the uterus. This process begins with doctors retrieving eggs from the ovaries. Next, they fertilize the eggs with either provided or donated sperm in the lab. Once the egg (or eggs) is fertilized, it is placed in the uterus in hopes of an embryo.
A full cycle of IVF typically takes from four to six weeks. Many couples repeat the cycle multiple times until they have a healthy baby or decide to end treatment. IVF, like all medical procedures, has associated risks, and the success rates depend on numerous variables. Nonetheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to two percent of annual births in the U.S. are a result of IVF treatment.
- How do You Know if IVF Is Right for You?
IVF has had success for women who have had blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. It can even work for women who have had their fallopian tubes removed because IVF totally bypasses their use. Since the process stimulates the production of healthy eggs, IVF can also benefit women trying to get pregnant who have irregular ovulation cycles.
If you or your partner are unable to produce healthy eggs, you can still receive IVF treatment with donor eggs. In addition, couples who chose to freeze their eggs or sperm earlier in life can have them thawed and used for IVF. This can allow those who are about to undergo treatments like chemotherapy have a child later on.
Before making a decision, consult your doctor. Make sure you are not allergic to any of the associated medications and go through reviews before you select the right fertility clinic for treatment.
- How Does IVF Treatment Work?
As mentioned above, a single IVF cycle takes roughly one month, and many couples go through multiple cycles. In greater detail, these are the steps that make up one full IVF cycle:
- Ovulation Induction – IVF starts with egg stimulation, also called super-ovulation. Patients receive a drug that uses hormones to tell the body to develop more than one egg. The doctor then administers regular blood tests and ultrasounds to measure hormone levels and monitor egg production.
- Egg Retrieval – The next step is an outpatient surgical procedure. A doctor uses a thin needle attached to a suction device to remove eggs from the ovaries through the vagina.
- Insemination – This process involves the mixing and storing of eggs and sperm cells in a special container where fertilization occurs. If the sperm being used has low motility, they will be injected into the eggs directly. Once fertilized, the embryos are monitored at the lab for progress.
- Embryo Transfer – At this stage, the doctor will transfer one or more embryos directly into the uterus using a thin tube inserted through the cervix. The embryos can then attach themselves to the lining of the uterus, resulting in a pregnancy.
After this step, doctors often prescribe progesterone, which can be taken as pills or through injections, to help the embryo survive in the uterus.
- How Can You Cover the Cost?
Cost is one major factor to consider when deciding whether IVF is right for you. Most insurance plans do not cover these procedures because they are elective. However, there are many ways to pay for IVF. A few of options include:
- IVF clinic financing,
- Personal loans from banks or online lenders,
- Credit card loans, and
- Home equity loans.
- What Happens After IVF Treatment?
IVF treatment can increase your chances of getting pregnant. However, this is not guaranteed. You will be on hormonal support for a few weeks after the treatment and will be advised to take folic acid. For two weeks after the embryo transfer, you should avoid saunas, spas, swimming pools, and baths. Drink lots of water, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid any intense exercises.
While IVF success depends on many uncontrollable factors, remain hopeful. Remember that many births have resulted from IVF. In fact, the most recent study by the CDC reported 68,908 live ART births in one year (2017).