Fertility problems have become increasingly familiar, with an estimated 9% of men and 11% of women in the U.S. suffering from them. One of the best-known treatment options for this challenge is in vitro fertilization (IVF). Despite being relatively expensive and invasive, the procedures undertaken in this treatment continue to be highly sought after both at home and abroad. But does this mean that these treatments are sure to work? Before we answer that question, let us first expound more on what IVF is.
What Is IVF?
IVF is termed an assistive reproductive technology (ART) made up of complex procedures to overcome specific fertility problems, allowing a couple or single to conceive a healthy child successfully. It also includes genetic screening that helps eliminate the risk of passing on genetic disorders to the child and can allow for gender selection.
The treatment begins with health evaluations of the couple to find out if there are underlying reasons for their inability to conceive naturally. Medical history, blood tests, scans, and physical exams are typically part of the evaluation. Where there is a need for treatment, such as in cases of endometriosis for women and impaired sperm production in men, medical interventions may be used to rectify, where possible.
The treatment then initiates an IVF cycle with the woman taking certain medications to stimulate higher egg production from the ovaries. Blood tests and ultrasound imaging monitor this progression and establish when to switch to medications to promote egg maturation and schedule their retrieval.
Just after egg retrieval is done, a sperm sample is also taken from the male partner. The two are combined in a lab setting to allow for fertilization and the creation of embryos. Screening for genetic disorders and gender is done a few days later. The best embryos are selected and then transferred into the woman’s uterus for implantation to take place hopefully.
Most first-time treatments result in the transfer of just one embryo. However, in some instances, such as with older female patients, the doctor may decide to transfer two or three embryos to increase the chances of success with the couple’s agreement. A pregnancy test is done a couple of weeks later to confirm implantation occurred and verify the woman is pregnant. Thus ends a successful IVF treatment.
Is IVF Guaranteed to Work?
The process described above is what couples undergoing IVF treatment hope will end their worries. However, there are no guarantees for fertility or reproductive treatment, including IVF. There is potential for failure at just about any step.
For instance, at the time of health evaluation, it could be found that the fertility problems of one or both couples cannot be resolved. Later on, during egg retrieval, fertilization and implantation, certain complications could arise that mean an end to the treatment and possibly having to start over.
In the UK, it has been found that women undergoing IVF treatment have an estimated success rate of 20-35% per cycle. The chances of their success then decline with each subsequent round of treatment. On average, three complete cycles of IVF increase the chances of carrying a successful pregnancy to 45-53%.
How IVF treatments are carried out does help to identify the many possible barriers to getting pregnant. Remedies can be found for many problems, such as egg and sperm donation, where couples cannot produce the required material. If the woman’s uterus cannot support a pregnancy, surrogacy could be an option.
However, even with all this, failure is still a possibility. Remember that 26% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, mainly during the first trimester. So even getting pregnant is no assurance that you will get to deliver a healthy baby.
Multiple factors can contribute to rates of success, including maternal age. The older the woman is, the more likely she will have poor quality eggs to be retrieved and the increased risk of the embryos developing birth defects. The quality of sperm in men also declines the older they get. This is why IVF success rates also drop for older couples trying to get pregnant.
The treatment success rate can also vary depending on the clinic and fertility specialist you see. Hence the need to do adequate research before settling on what clinic you will go to for IVF. Be sure to consider their success at getting women pregnant and the eventual live births achieved.
How to Boost Chances of IVF Success?
Just because IVF cannot offer guarantees does not mean you should not try it. If you can afford the treatment and can cope with what can be a physically, mentally, and emotionally stressful experience, then go for it. It must also be a solution your doctor recommends based on their evaluations. Many couples have seen repeated success from IVF, with countries like Australia currently having one in twenty babies born through this treatment.
Consulting with a fertility specialist will help determine how to improve your chances of IVF success. This can include:
- Achieving a healthy weight makes it easier for ovaries to be monitored and eggs to be retrieved. It will also help to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy. It can also help boost sperm quality.
- Stop smoking that can affect egg and sperm quality. This dangerous habit may also increase the risk of complications during pregnancy, including premature birth, low birth weight, and congenital disabilities.
- Adopting stress-relieving habits like exercise, meditation, and more. This will help manage the stress levels that will likely go up during this treatment, affecting outcomes.
- Blood test to determine if there are any nutritional deficiencies. Many can be treated by taking supplements, which can help improve egg quality and quantity and improve the chances of a successful live birth.
- Eat a healthier diet by cutting down on carbs and refined foods. Also, boost your fiber intake while opting for leaner vegetable proteins.
- Limit caffeine intake. Women that are big coffee drinkers tend to take longer to get pregnant, making it ideal to limit oneself to one or two cups a day.
- Limit alcohol intake. High alcohol consumption has also been found to impact fertility negatively. Lowering intake to moderate levels may help improve chances of success.