Guest blog by Jana Grobbelaar, creator of South Africa’s largest online parenting platform Moomie.
Are you struggling to get pregnant? Then you may question if in vitro fertilization (IVF) is an option for you. Many women conceive successfully after trying IVF.
What is IVF?
IVF (In vitro fertilization) involves fertilizing an egg outside of the womb, then re implanting the embryo. IVF was introduced over 30 years ago for the treatment of women with damaged fallopian tubes and is considered the original ‘test-tube’ baby technique. IVF is a complicated and costly procedure; only about 5% of couples with infertility opt for this route.
How does IVF work?
All IVF treatments start out with a course of hormone treatment to encourage the development of numerous follicles in the ovary. These eggs are collected, which are then fertilized in a test-tube to produce several embryos. After two to five days in an incubator, one or two of these embryos are placed into the uterus through the vagina, where implantation takes place, and pregnancy begins. This sounds very straightforward but unfortunately can be a complicated and frustrating journey.
Let’s start from the beginning:
Most women take fertility drugs or hormones at this point to stimulate the ovaries to produce a number of eggs. This is known as ovulation induction. During this process, your fertility specialist will monitor your ovaries as well as the timing of the egg release. The fertility specialist will also check your hormone levels among other things. If you cannot produce any eggs, you have an option to use donor eggs for the IVF process.
The ovarian stimulation stage concludes once ultrasounds reveal that the quantity and size of the follicles are satisfactory. As soon as a nurse has established your procedure time with theatre, they will advise the precise time y This is a shot of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) to support the egg’s final maturation and to loosen from the follicle wall.
After your ovaries have produced enough mature eggs, your fertility specialist removes the eggs from your body. Egg retrieval is a minor surgical treatment that’s done at your doctor’s office or a fertility center. You’ll receive medicine to help you relax and be comfortable during the procedure. Using an ultrasound to observe inside your body, the doctor places a thin, hollow tube into the ovary and follicles that carry your eggs. The needle is attached to a suction unit that gently extracts the eggs out of every follicle.
Immediately after aspiration of the follicle, the egg is separated from the follicular fluid. The egg is placed in a culture dish containing nutrient media and then transferred to the incubator.
In the lab, your eggs are combined with a sperm sample either from your partner or a donor. They are then stored together in a test tube, and fertilization happens. For sperm that has lower motility, they may be injected directly into the eggs to promote fertilization. The sperm and egg are stored in an incubator and monitored to ensure that a healthy embryo develops.
Around 3-5 days following the egg retrieval, 1 or more embryos are placed inside your uterus, but first, the embryos are examined to select the healthiest ones for transfer. If you have several healthy embryos, you can opt to freeze them for future use. Embryo transfer is usually performed at your doctor’s office or a fertility clinic, and not painful at all.
Pregnancy occurs if one or more of the embryos attach to the lining of your uterus. This is called implantation. In about 10 – 14 days after undergoing the in vitro fertilization process, you can take a pregnancy test. Your fertility specialist will require you to undergo blood tests, and if the results are positive, you’ll need to go again in a few days to monitor the HCG levels (pregnancy hormone) in your bloodstream.
The luteal phase is the two-week time frame (TWW) between the embryo transfer and the pregnancy test. During this period it is crucial that you look after yourself and maintain good health and well-being. You will be asked to restrict strenuous activity for 24 hours after the transfer. The progesterone medication you start using following egg retrieval can occasionally cause fatigue, nausea or vomiting, cramping and bloating. In case you are worried by any symptoms, get in touch with your fertility center and talk with a nurse.
A couple’s’ ability to conceive is affected by many factors – age, weight, male sperm count, reproductive history and clinical diagnoses, are all factors that play a role in fertility and the success of fertility treatment. It is important to recognize that pregnancy rates are not the same as live birth rates. As with any fertility procedure, success rates in IVF decrease as soon as patients reach the age of 35. Before that, IVF pregnancy rates are close to 50% per cycle.
The live birth rate for each IVF cycle started is approximate: (These are just average figures and can vary from clinic to clinic)
- 41-43% for females under age 35
- 33-36% for females ages 35 to 37
- 23-27% for females ages 38 to 40
- 13-18% for females ages over 40
When should you consider IVF Treatment?
With regards to infertility, IVF could possibly be a solution if you or your partner have been diagnosed with:
- Poor sperm counts
- Issues with the uterus or fallopian tubes
- Difficulties with ovulation
- Antibody conditions that damage sperm or eggs
- The inability of sperm to enter or stay alive in the cervical mucus
- Unexplained infertility
IVF can be challenging emotionally, both for the person having the procedure and for their partner and family. Many couples undergoing IVF treatment battle with depression and anxiety throughout the process. Speaking with individuals who’ve experienced fertility challenges and IVF can be beneficial if you’re feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and frustrated. Online and in-person communities are also great places to meet individuals who knows what you’re dealing with and can offer guidance and advice.
Jana Grobbelaar Meet the Super Mom of Moomie – Moomie is the brainchild of Jana, entrepreneur, editor, and mother-of-three and she has been able to create South Africa’s largest online parenting platform. Where Moms Meet to connect and chat about all things babies.