Planning to start IVF? Here is what you need to know
IVF or In vitro fertilisation is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) which is done to help couples and individuals conceive. It uses a combination of medical and surgical treatment to fertilise the egg outside the body and implant the resulting embryo into the uterus. It is one of the most widely known forms of ART. The description is, however, an extremely simplified version of this long and complex process. The outcome depends on a number of factors including the age and health of hopeful parents.
There is no doubt that IVF has revolutionised the field of fertility. It has enabled couples and individuals all around the world fulfil their dream of becoming a parent. As it rises in popularity it is necessary to raise awareness about what it all entails. Here we will explore IVF a little further including its risk factors associated with IVF, IVF process and its suitability.
When is IVF recommended?
A common misconception is that IVF is the only fertility treatment available. It is the most recognised type of artificial reproductive technology, and is used for patients with:
- Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- Infertility problems in the male partner such as low sperm count or sperm motility
- Chronic conditions such as Ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure and uterine fibroids
- Genetic disorders
- Unexplained infertility
- Surgically removed fallopian tubes
How is IVF process performed?
IVF is an extremely complex and long procedure. Each course of treatment will end with implantation of the embryo into the uterus, this is called an IVF cycle. Patients may need either one or multiple IVF cycles to conceive. The steps involved in an IVF cycle are:
Before you begin your treatment, your doctor will evaluate your uterus and fallopian tubes to rule out any issues that might need surgical repair. You would then be given fertility medications to stimulate egg production. This protocol used to decide the dose and frequency of drug administration is carefully chosen to maximise egg production while avoiding the development of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome. It is desirable to harvest multiple eggs as not all harvested eggs are viable for fertilisation. You would have to undergo an ultrasound to examine the ovaries as well as a blood test to assess hormone levels in your body.
Your eggs would be harvested with the help of a minor surgical procedure. Ultrasound imaging is used to guide a hollow needle through the pelvic cavity so as to retrieve the eggs. You would be sedated and monitored by an anaesthesiologist to minimize discomfort during the procedure.
Sperm samples would be taken from the male partner.
The collected sperm is then used to fertilize the retrieved eggs in a laboratory dish. This process is called insemination. In case there is a low probability of fertilisation, a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is used. In ICSI, a single sperm is injected directly into the egg. The sperm to be injected is carefully selected from the sample to increase the chances of success. Once this is done, the eggs are monitored to check for growth. If the cells start multiplying, the egg is considered to be fertilised and are called embryos.
Usually 3 to 5 days after fertilisation, the embryos are implanted into the uterus. A small tube or catheter is used to transfer the embryos. This procedure is generally painless, although some women do complain about experiencing mild cramping. Implantation generally occurs around 6-10 days after egg retrieval in case the process is successful.
Read: Five things you should know before visiting an IVF centre
How effective is IVF treatment?
It is important to remember that IVF does not guarantee a pregnancy or live birth. The success of the treatment depends on a wide range of factors such as reproductive history, maternal age, cause of infertility as well as lifestyle. The live birth IVF success rate drops drastically with maternal age over 35 years (40% at 35 years of age and 4% over 40 years of age).
It is also important to know that for most people, multiple IVF cycles would be required for successful implantation. So, do not lose hope right away in case of an unwanted outcome.
What are the side effects of IVF?
Like all medical procedures, IVF does not come without any side effects. They can be mild or severe from patient to patient. Common side effects of IVF include:
- Mood swings
- Abdominal pain
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal bloating
- Developing Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome due to the fertility medications. This condition can cause nausea or vomiting, decreased urination, shortness of breath, light-headedness, severe stomach pain and rapid weight gain.
What are the risks associated with IVF?
There are a few risks associated with IVF treatment. These would be explained to you in full detail by your doctor before you start the treatment. They include:
- Bleeding, infection or damage to the bowel and bladder during the egg retrieval process
- Increased risk of multiple pregnancies if multiple embryos are implanted
- Risk of miscarriage increases with maternal age
- Increased risk of ectopic pregnancies
- Financial and psychological risk to the hopeful parents
Be sure to do your research before you start with any treatment. Choose your IVF centre and fertility specialist doctor with extreme care and caution. Remember IVF is a long and arduous journey. Take time to recuperate between cycles. Follow a healthy lifestyle and diet to maximise your chances for success. Be patient, strong and positive during this time.
Que 1: Why is there a higher chance of having twins with IVF?
Ans: For a higher chance of implantation, the doctor generally implants multiple embryos in the uterus. This increases the risk of having multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, quadruplets etc). As there are a whole other range of risks associated with multiple pregnancies such as preterm labour and miscarriage, doctors have now started limiting implantation to one embryo after carefully selecting the most viable and healthy embryo.
Ques 2: What should I eat during my IVF treatments?
Ans: You should follow a healthy balanced diet during your IVF treatments. Don’t drastically change your diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Diet is also significant in maintaining sperm health, so the male partner should be careful about what they eat as well.
Ques 3: What do I do if my eggs or my partner’s sperm is not viable?
Ans: If your eggs or your partner’s sperm are not suitable for fertilization, your doctor might recommend using a donor. Many facilities now offer egg donation and harvesting services and have contact with egg and sperm banks. The donors are generally kept anonymous. You can get a better idea about the procedure with the help of your doctor.
Ques 4: What do I do if implantation is not successful?
Ans: In the case of multiple implantation failures due to an unsuitable uterine environment, you can opt for surrogacy. In surrogacy, your embryo would be implanted in a gestational surrogate who would carry your baby to term. Seek medical counsel to understand the legal aspects of surrogacy in your region.
Read: What to do When You Suspect Infertility
At the CK Birla Hospital, we aim to provide the best treatment with the utmost care and our Department of Fertility has one of the largest IVF centres in Gurgaon with a combined team experience of over 100 years and 55% IVF success rate.
Connect with our team of IVF experts to learn more about the IVF process and treatment. Book appointment today.