IVF – What it is and what’s involved
IVF or In vitro fertilisation was developed more than 30 years ago and is now routine treatment for couples who are unable to conceive naturally.
Your doctor may suggest IVF if:
• you have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility
• your fallopian tubes are blocked
• other techniques such as fertility drugs or intrauterine insemination (IUI) have not been successful
• your partner has fertility problems but not severe enough to require intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
• you are using your partner’s frozen sperm in your treatment and IUI is not suitable for you
• you are using donated eggs or your own frozen eggs in your treatment
• you are using embryo testing to avoid passing on a genetic condition to your child.
IVF success rates very from clinic to clinic and are very dependent on your age. The latest data on national average success rates that resulted in a love birth are:
• 32.2% for women aged under 35
• 27.7% for women aged between 35–37
• 20.8% for women aged between 38–39
• 13.6% for women aged between 40–42
• 5.0% for women aged between 43–44
• 1.9% for women aged 45 and over
IVF consists of a process of various steps to produce a fertilised embryo and ultimately a pregnancy and a baby.
Step 1: Ovarian stimulation
Your eggs are stimulated with hormones, often as daily injections, so that many follicles develop. A trigger injection, usually 36 hours before egg collection, helps the eggs develop.
You may prefer to consider Mild IVF or a natural cycle. Mild IVF means that you receive a lower dose of fertility drugs over a shorter period of time that with conventional IVF. Currently there is limited data on the success rates of mild IVF but it is likely to be less successful than conventional IVF
If you choose to use a natural cycle for your IVF, no fertility drugs are used and only one follicle is collected and fertilised. IVF success rates are lower with natural cycles.
Step 2: Egg collection
Eggs are retrieved either by local or general anaesthetic and are placed in an incubator in the lab to mature.
Step 3: Sperm production
Your partner is asked to produce a semen sample, which is then prepared and the healthiest sperm are chosen for IVF.
Step 4: Insemination
The sperm is introduced to the eggs and these are then incubated together overnight and observed the following day to check for successful fertilisation.
Step 5: Embryo transfer
2-3 days after (or longer depending on the quality of the embryos) the eggs are fertilised, the best quality embryos are transferred to your uterus. Depending on your circumstances 1-3 embryos may be inserted in to your uterus using a thin plastic tube. This is usually a quick and painless procedure.
Step 6: Embryo freezing
Any good quality embryos that were not used in the transfer can be frozen for future use.
Step 7: Pregnancy test
A pregnancy test is generally performed 2 weeks post transfer and if positive you may be offered a scan around 2 weeks later.