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IVF explained: Could in-vitro fertilisation be for you?

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These days more and more couples are turning to IVF to help them conceive and start, or grow, their family. However, there is often confusion around IVF treatment, writes Kylie de Boer from Mosman-based IVF clinic BUMP.

In June 2014, BUMP, in conjunction with Galaxy Research, studied 1007 women aged between 25 and 44 and found 88 per cent of them believed there would be significant barriers to IVF if they were finding it difficult to fall pregnant. So let’s debunk some myths and show that IVF can truly be a simple, straightforward treatment option for couples.

What is infertility?

Infertility is not achieving a pregnancy after 6-12 months of unprotected sex. It affects one in every six couples, for a number of reasons. BUMP’s survey revealed that almost a third of women (32%) feel responsible or guilty even when it is their partner who has the fertility issue, but in actual fact:

  • 30 per cent of infertility is due to female factors alone
  • 30 per cent of infertility is due to male factors alone
  • 30 per cent of infertility is due to both female and male factors
  • 10 per cent of infertility remains unexplained

What is IVF?

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a relatively straightforward and standardised process of fertilising eggs with sperm outside of the body.

Even though there is a lot of confusion surrounding IVF treatment there are actually three standard procedure options available: standard IVF, IVF with Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) and Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET).

Standard IVF is when fertilisation of the eggs by the sperm occurs in a dish (‘in vitro’ means ‘in glass’ in Latin). The resulting embryo(s) are either transferred back into the uterus or frozen for use in a future cycle.

ICSI is a similar procedure but it involves injecting a single sperm into a single egg with the resulting embryo either being transferred back into the uterus or frozen for use in a future cycle.

Finally, FET occurs when a frozen embryo is then thawed and transferred into the woman’s uterus.

What tests do I need before receiving treatment?

Most women believe the process of having IVF is complex. But, actually, standard IVF treatment is quite straightforward, requiring just a few basic tests to determine if the treatment is right for you.

BumpIVFYou will need a basic blood test, which will both measure your hormone levels and screen for rubella, HIV, and hepatitis B and C.

Women will also have an AMH blood test to measure the hormone associated with a woman’s ovarian reserve levels. Doctors use this test to get an early snapshot so a decision can be made on when to start trying for a baby and when to access fertility treatment. This test can be done at any time during a normal menstrual cycle.

Women will also require a pelvic ultrasound to look at the health of their fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries. It will also alert the clinic to any fibroids, polyps or cysts, which could affect your cycle.

Finally, men’s semen will be tested to measure the number and quality of sperm and any characteristics that could affect conception.

What does the IVF process involve?

Once your doctor has carried out the basic tests you can begin IVF treatment. Egg collection and fertilisation is the first stage of treatment. Drugs are used to stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce a number of mature eggs. The eggs are then collected via a simple surgical procedure (takes around 10 minutes) and fertilised by the sperm in a lab.

Fertilisation occurs when the sperm and eggs meet in a dish. One of the resulting embryos can then be transferred back into the uterus. Excess embryos can be frozen (vitrified) for later use. In a little over 10 days after the embryo is transferred, your IVF clinic can confirm if the treatment has resulted in a pregnancy.

What is the cost of IVF?

There seems to be a lot of confusion around the cost of IVF, with many believing IVF is quite expensive. However, some modern clinics offer treatment options at an affordable rate while still using the proven science of larger, more expensive clinics. Also, some private health insurance policies will cover part of the treatment. I recommend that you talk with your treatment provider and discuss costs upfront so that you get no surprises and, most importantly, have peace of mind.

For more information and advice on IVF treatment, call BUMP on (02) 91541100 or visit bumpivf.com.au

Do you have any advice for couples thinking about going down the IVF route? Share your wisdom in the comments section below.

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