Infertility and the IVF Process: a Brief Guide
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In vitro fertilization brings new hope to couples who struggle with infertility.
In virto fertilization, commonly known as IVF, became available in the U.S. in 1981. Since then more than 200,000 babies have been born as a result of the IVF process.
The number continues to rise as the procedure becomes more common as 12% of women experience some form of infertility. In 2013, the IVF resulted in 63,286 births, 1.5 percent of all births that year, according to the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology.
What is the IVF process?
While in vitro fertilization is effective in helping couples experiencing infertility due to various challenges like endometriosis, low sperm counts or problems with ovulation, IVF is never the first step in treatment. It is a last resort treatment if fertility drugs, surgery and artificial insemination haven’t worked.
The IVF process is the combining of eggs and sperm outside the body — in a test-tube, thus the term “test-tube babies” — in a laboratory. Once an embryo(s) forms, it is placed in the mother’s uterus and the pregnancy carries to term much like any other pregnancy.
Prior to this the mother is injected with hormones to produce multiple eggs. Then the mother takes medication to ripen the eggs and start ovulation. It’s important the eggs are retrieved just before they emerge from the follicles in the ovaries. The eggs are combined with the sperm immediately after retrieval. After a few days to ensure optimal growth the embryos are transferred to the mother.
A woman’s age is a major factor in the success of the IVF treatment and whether the embryo is fresh or frozen plays a role.
- Women under 35: 46.3% fresh vs. 39.3% frozen
- Women 35-37: 38.4% fresh vs. 35.7% frozen
- Women 38-40: 27.5% fresh vs. 30.3% frozen
- Women 41-42: 16.6% fresh vs. 24.5% frozen
- Women 42: 6.5% fresh vs. 16.5% frozen
These numbers do not necessarily show success rate on the first round of IVF treatment. The average couple has the best chances if they commit to trying at least 2 to 3 IVF cycles.
Other common factors in success rate include:
- Whether or not you’ve had a previous pregnancy especially if it was with the same partner
- Type of fertility problems you are dealing with some ovulation problems require larger amount of ovulation stimulation drugs
- Whether you are using donor eggs especially if you are an older woman
- Lifestyle habits like whether you smoke or are overweight
- and the fertility clinic itself considering their experience and the couple they work with.
Cost: a significant consideration
The average cost of in vitro fertiliazation procedure in the U.S. is $19,857, according to the Fertility IQ. This varies depending on where you live, the clinic you choose, the medication required and the number of cycles you undergo before you have a successful pregnancy.
The majority of IVF procedures are not covered by insurance or have limited coverage. Fertility loans are available to help pay for in vitro fertilization procedures.
Emotional cost as well
Infertility itself is an emotional experience. When couples want to have children and feel their biological clocks ticking so to speak, they feel the pressure is on. And when it doesn’t happen on it’s own, it can be devastating.
Deciding to go through with in vitro when as mentioned before it is usually a last resort is a big decision. Not only have you already undergone a lot to try to get pregnant and the sheer financial burder of IVF, the process itself is stressful. Odds are against a successful procedure in any one cycle of treatment.
Both partners need to be prepared emotionally for:
- Dealing with shame, guilt and anxiety from previous attempts at pregnancy
- Following specific procedures
- Interacting with various clinical staff
- Coping with unpredictable emotions from the fertility drugs
- Marital stress
- Financial stress
- And sometimes having to temporarily live in or frequent travel to another city to go through the process
That’s all during the IVF process. Then the couple has to be prepared if the IVF doesn’t take or that the pregnancy miscarries. (Miscarriage rates are the same (10-20%) for IVF as for natural conception. A silver lining of a miscarriage is that the pregnancy took which makes subsequent attempts more likely to be successful.
Couples must be aware that no matter how hard they try or how many times they attempt IVF, no one can guarantee a successful pregnancy. All of this stress can be hard on a relationship. Proper emotional preparation and mutual support throughout the treatment cycle will help both partners cope more effectively.
Increase your chances to keep an IVF pregnancy
- Get healthy before going through the IVF procedure by maintaining a healthy weight and eating for fertility. Being either overweight or underweight can be detrimental to the reproductive process. Eat healthy, nonprocessed — preferably organic — foods and take a prenatal vitamin.
- Check your thyroid levels to verify your TSH levels are 2.5 or below.
- After treatment, the clinic will give you progesterone to maintain your pregnancy. Remember to take it and any other prescribed medications on schedule until they wean you off, usually after the first trimester. Missing just one could end in miscarriage.
- Protect the baby — and your IVF investment — while driving with the crash tested pregnancy seat belt positioner, Tummy Shield. The Tummy Shield was highly engineered, strength tested to endure more than 5,000 lbs of crash force and crash tested to ensure the seat belt still works as intended while being redirected from the abdomen to the upper thighs.
- Starting before your treatment, get into a healthy sleep cycle. You can improve natural melatonin production by sleeping in complete darkness and melatonin is essential in healthy follicle development.
- Spend some time every day visualizing a successful IVF process and pregnancy.
We want to know, did you undergo IVF? What tips can you share?
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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