In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)& IVF treatments –
A general overview and tips
- During in vitro fertilization (IVF), eggs are harvested from the woman’s ovaries in an inpatient surgical procedure, and then fertilized by semen in the lab.
- If the male partner has undergone abnormal sperm analysis, fertilization is achieved by injecting a single sperm into each egg in a process called “intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)”.
- Individual treatments are called “in vitro fertilization cycles”, and one cycle takes about 2-4 weeks and culminates in aspiration of eggs from the woman’s ovaries and fertilizing them with the sperm.
- The fertilized eggs, called “embryos”, are implanted into the woman’s uterus three to five days after fertilization, or they can be frozen for use in the next cycle.
- Prior to transplantation, the embryos can be tested for their genetic capacity in order to be able to select the best embryos for transfer or to check them for genetic diseases that the parents could pass on to their offspring. You can read more about this here.
IVF treatments give the person the opportunity to try to conceive in circumstances where there is one or more factors that could lower their chances of falling pregnant.
Below are the most common reasons why individuals or couples consider having IVF treatments:
- Women or couples who have failed simpler treatments, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI). IUI involves injecting a sperm sample directly into the uterine cavity. As part of the process, the sperm sample undergoes sperm washing and enhancement, and the best sperm cells are selected.
- Women with infertility associated with advanced age
- Women with a diminished ovarian reserve
- Women with repeated miscarriages
- Women or men who have or whose family has a history of genetic abnormality
- Women with blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- Women who are unable to ovulate
- Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Women with endometriosis
- Men with a poor quantity or quality of semen
- Couples with unexplained fertility problems
Tips for increasing the chances of successful IVF treatment:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is very important for fertility and for IVF. Being overweight doubles the time it takes to conceive and adversely affects the success rates of IVF treatments. Being overweight also makes it difficult to monitor the ovaries during IVF and increases the risk of complications during egg retrieval. This can be achieved through proper nutrition and taking part in sports, though not too intensively.
- Enhance the quality of the sperm. Read about this in How can sperm quality be improved.
- Choose a doctor who has a reputation for excellence and works with a good fertility lab. It’s important to find a doctor who is not only experienced and has extensive professional knowledge and recommendations but is also a doctor that you feel comfortable with. This doctor will accompany you throughout a difficult and emotional journey, and it’s important that you feel you are getting the support you need and that your voice is being heard. It’s advisable to ask friends and family for a recommendation about a doctor but, most importantly, you need to do your own research on fertility forums and by consulting with former patients of the doctor in question.
In the world of online reviews, you’ll have a hard time determining the credibility of the recommendations mainly because some of the recommendations come from people who have an interest in recruiting you. This is exactly why one should be careful with online recommendations and to check them carefully.
- Reduce your stress level. Stress affects the rate of conception when trying to conceive naturally but also when trying to conceive through IVF. There is no doubt that reducing stress during fertility treatments is one of the most difficult things to do. You can try to achieve this through special Chinese acupuncture for fertility, through mindfulness during the fertility treatments, and other soothing techniques.
- Stop smoking (if you do). Smoking can drastically reduce the chances of successful IVF treatment because it affects the quality of the egg and the sperm.
- Take nutritional supplements. The supplements DHEA and CoQ10 are considered to have the best outcome in terms of egg quantity and quality.
- Make sure that your vitamin D levels are sufficient. There’s a heap of information on the connection between vitamin D deficiency and infertility with even worse results for IVF. You should definitely consider taking this supplement.
- It’s important to be persistent and patient. Most often, patients need more than one cycle of IVF treatment to get an embryo for reimplantation, and the results can vary from cycle to cycle. If the first cycle is unsuccessful, your doctor may be able to adjust your medication to improve the results of the next IVF cycle. But sometimes, you just have to keep going. Try not to despair when there is a bad outcome or a failure. This process is mostly beyond your control. No one likes to not have control, but sometimes letting go can help you get through the journey. Take care of yourself and don’t blame yourself when things don’t go well. It takes time to build a family.