What every couple should know about IVF

When it comes to the world of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), it is natural to be concerned about your best chances to conceive through this technique. Certainly, IVF is among the most effective treatment available to help people with fertility problems.

Currently, several babies born in Nigeria are conceived using ART, and its use has increased in recent times. Millions of babies have been born with the help of IVF and related treatments since the birth of the first IVF baby, Louise Brown in 1978.

Couples traditionally seek medical advice after at least one year of trying to conceive on their own, and it is known that if untreated, infertility can result in stress, depression, and emotional distress. Although age has been shown to be a robust factor in predicting the success of IVF treatment because the likelihood of becoming pregnant declines as couples age.The average age of women seeking fertility treatment has steadily increased over the years, reflecting the trend for couples to start families later on.

It is appreciated that the chances of IVF success fall sharply in the early 40s as shown by the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). For instance, the percentage of IVF cycles that resulted in births decreases from 20 per cent when the mother is aged 38-39, to 14 per cent at age 40-42, to just five per cent when she is over 42, according to the HFEA.

If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, you should speak to your doctor who will advise you on how to improve your chances of having a baby. If necessary you will be referred to a fertility specialist for a suitable treatment such as IVF.

A full cycle of IVF treatment covers ovarian stimulation and egg recovery, insemination, and embryo replacement. While every couple that undergoes IVF will not conceive in every cycle, it is however true that young healthy couples usually only have around a 20 per cent chance of conceiving naturally in a month.

Three cycles are typically recommended. While you may expect to see the success of IVF rates of 20-35 per cent per cycle,  the likelihood of getting pregnant increases with each successive round. The cumulative effect of three full cycles of IVF increases the chances of a successful pregnancy to 55 – 70 per cent. This is why couples are often encouraged to opt for a three-cycle IVF plan. It is more cost-effective and clinically effective particularly if you are under the age of 40.

The probability of success with IVF treatments depends upon a number of factors, such as the age of the woman, the cause of infertility, the quality of eggs retrieved, and the quality of the semen.

Also, the success rate for having a baby with IVF depends a great deal upon the type of treatment, for instance, whether your own eggs are being used, or you are using donor eggs, and your age also matters. If you are older than 38, the success rate is appreciably lower.

Treatment through IVF comes highly recommended; if you are struggling with infertility and you choose IVF as an assisted conception method, you need to be aware of what the procedure entails.  It involves extracting eggs from your ovaries, mixing them with sperm, and inserting them directly into your uterus.

Essentially IVF involves six main stages. It begins with suppressing your natural menstrual cycle with drugs, then helping your ovaries produce extra eggs, then monitoring your progress as the eggs mature with the aid of an ultrasound scan.

After this, comes to the process of collecting the eggs. This is done with a needle inserted through the birth canal and into your ovaries to remove the eggs usually under sedation. Following this is the fertilisation of the eggs which are mixed with the sperm for a few days to allow them to be fertilised.

The last stage is transferring the embryo(s) which are placed into the womb. Once the embryo(s) has been transferred into the womb, a two weeks wait occurs before a pregnancy test to see if the treatment has worked. The success rate of IVF depends on the age of the woman having treatment, as well as the cause of infertility (if it’s known).

Given the unique method of conception, you may wonder how IVF pregnancy differs from a natural pregnancy. Generally, the risks and complications are similar. A pregnancy achieved through assisted reproductive technology is not necessarily considered high risk although a woman who conceives via this technique may have one or more pre-existing conditions, such as advanced maternal age or a history of miscarriage

You would also require special care if pregnant with multiples. This isn’t an uncommon result of IVF; you may have more than one embryo implanted to increase the chance of getting pregnant. However, carrying twins or triplets is considered a higher risk, since it increases the chances of premature labour and low-birth weight.

Patients may require more than one cycle of IVF to achieve an embryo for transfer and outcomes may vary significantly from cycle to cycle. If your first cycle wasn’t successful, you may need to keep at it, don’t give up. Try not to be discouraged by sub-optimal outcomes and setbacks. What to remember is that most (or all) of this is out of your control, but sometimes letting go can help you endure the journey. Take care of yourself and don’t blame yourself when things don’t go well. You are not alone.

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