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How can IVF help you become pregnant?

How can IVF help you become pregnant? [+ advice on what to consider]

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Introduction to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a common form of assisted reproductive technology used by couples struggling with infertility. During IVF, eggs become fertilized by sperm in a laboratory and then transferred into the uterus as embryos to achieve pregnancy.

IVF success rates have risen over the decades thanks to advances in reproductive medicine. Today, IVF results in a live birth around 41-43% of the time for women under 35 using their eggs. Success rates decline as women age, dropping to 11-13% for women over 40. Each IVF cycle costs $10,000-$15,000 on average. Many couples undergo multiple cycles to conceive.

Five main steps in the IVF process:

  1. Preparation: 

The woman takes ovulation-stimulating medications for about two weeks to produce multiple eggs. Regular monitoring checks hormone levels and follicle development. Potential complications include ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management also optimize outcomes.

  1. Egg Retrieval:  

Sedation or anesthesia, if needed, for comfort during the short outpatient procedure. On average, 10-15 eggs are collected per cycle from ovary follicles using an aspiration needle guided by ultrasound.

  1. Fertilization: 

Eggs and sperm are mixed in a laboratory dish and stored for fertilization. Then embryos develop for 3-5 days—factors like egg/sperm count and quality impact the fertilization rate. Genetic testing helps select viable embryos.

  1. Embryo Transfer:

In this procedure, a thin catheter transfers one or more embryos through the cervix. Extra viable embryos can be frozen to use for future cycles. Risk factors such as multiple pregnancies must be considered depending on the number of embryos transferred.

  1. Pregnancy Test : 

A blood test 10-14 days after transfer checks for the hormone hCG to confirm pregnancy. Success rates per transfer average around 50% for women under 35, but miscarriage chances also rise with age.

  1. While complex and emotionally intense, IVF provides hope for prospective parents having difficulty conceiving on their own to build their families. Understanding what’s involved allows patients to make informed choices during this challenging yet rewarding process.

 A note of caution regarding IVF 

To help you through each of the main steps of the IVF process, we have provided some critical information and advice:

Preparation

  • Take medications exactly as prescribed to stimulate ovaries properly and avoid complications.
  • Make time for frequent ultrasounds/bloodwork to monitor stimulation effects closely.
  • Discuss the risks of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and options to minimize.
  • Reduce stress through yoga/meditation to help hormones/success rates
  • Improve diet, sleep, and exercise now to boost egg/embryo quality

Egg Retrieval

  • It is your responsibility to arrange for a ride home since you received sedation to keep you comfortable.
  • Expect some cramping/bloating 1-2 days after since the ovaries inflamed
  • Avoid strenuous activity intercourse for five days to reduce injury/infection risk
  • Call the clinic if you notice heavy bleeding, pain, nausea/vomiting (signs of complication)

Fertilization

  • A higher egg count improves the odds that some will fertilize and develop.
  • Pay extra for genetic testing if a history of chromosomal issues
  • Growth medium, lab conditions closely monitored to nurture embryos
  • The count and morphology of the partner’s sperm samples were analyzed carefully

Embryo Transfer

  • Implantation success is more likely when transferring embryo(s) into a receptive uterus.
  • You may take progesterone supplements to sustain pregnancy initially
  • Bed rest/reduced activity has not proven to improve implantation chances
  • Consider a freeze-all cycle if ovarian stimulation response is highly elevated

Pregnancy Test

  • Home urine tests may show false positives from trigger shots still present
  • Blood tests through the clinic are more reliable in detecting authentic hCG from implantation
  • Seeing gestational sac/fetal pole on early ultrasound (5-6 weeks) is reassuring
  • After a positive test, continue meds/lifestyle support and attend checkups

FAQ  about IVF Treatment 

What are the IVF success rates?

 Success rates vary by age, ranging from 41-43% live birth rate per cycle for women under 35 to 11-13% for women over 40. Generally, the younger the woman, the higher the success rate.

How much does IVF cost? 

The average IVF cost is $10,000 – $15,000 per cycle. Medications, genetic testing, embryo freezing, and multiple cycles may involve additional costs. Insurance coverage also varies greatly.

How is IVF different from artificial insemination (IUI)?

In IVF, the eggs are fertilized outside the body in a lab, while in IUI, specially prepared sperm are inserted directly into the uterus around the time of ovulation. IVF has higher success rates but costs significantly more.

What are common IVF side effects?

 Stimulation drugs may cause bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, headaches, and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in rare cases. Egg retrieval can cause mild cramping and spotting. These side effects are usually temporary.
Does IVF increase the risk of multiples? Transferring multiple embryos can lead to twins, triplets, or more. Today, single embryo transfers are more familiar to avoid higher-risk numerous pregnancies. Any extra embryos will be frozen for potential future use.

How long is the IVF process?

One complete IVF cycle spans about two weeks for ovarian stimulation, an additional week for the embryo transfer, and then another 1-2 weeks before confirming pregnancy with a blood test.

What lifestyle factors influence IVF success? 

Maintaining a healthy weight, diet, and exercise levels while minimizing stress and avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine can help optimize fertility and IVF outcomes.

Are there ethical concerns with IVF?

 Tests and selection of embryos, surplus frozen embryos, and very high-order multiple pregnancies may prompt selective reduction, as well as cost and access barriers for lower-income women.

What are some alternatives if IVF fails? 

It is possible to try another fresh IVF cycle, transfer frozen embryos from previous cycles, consider an egg donor or gestational surrogate, or pursue adoption.

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