Many couples who come into the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility for the first time have several questions, concerns, and misconceptions about in vitro fertilization (IVF). The procedure is becoming much more commonplace, and today’s technology has helped simplify the process while making it more successful. In fact, the rate of success with in vitro is dramatically better than it’s ever been; in general, two out of three patients will get pregnant on the very first attempt.
Because it is such a common procedure and so many patients have questions about it, here are seven things to know about IVF.
1. Not Every Couple Will Need In Vitro
At our clinic, we try to treat the medical causes of infertility before jumping into IVF. Because of modern technology, we can overcome almost any infertility problem and almost every woman can achieve a pregnancy. Not everyone will need in vitro to get pregnant, but it is an extremely successful procedure to fall back on when a couple does need it. And when it is necessary, IVF is not as difficult or expensive as many people believe it to be, so it’s a very viable option.
2. IVF Can Be Used to Overcome a Variety of Infertility Problems
IVF is designed to retrieve the eggs from a woman, fertilize them with sperm, and bypass the fallopian tubes to place the embryos directly into the uterus to achieve pregnancy. 20 to 30 years ago, IVF was ideal for women who had blocked fallopian tubes. Today, it is an effective and routine treatment option for a variety of problems that cannot be corrected through standard techniques.
For example, we can use IVF for problems with ovulation; if it’s difficult to get eggs or the eggs are poor quality, IVF can be used to circumvent that problem. The procedure can also be used with male-factor problems. For example, when the sperm is not able to naturally fertilize the egg, we can fertilize the eggs with the in vitro process to ensure they’re fertilized before they’re placed back into the uterus.
3. IVF Can Be Used to Screen for the Genetic Health of the Baby
At our clinic, we use IVF technology to screen for genetic problems or recurring miscarriage before the woman becomes pregnant. After the eggs are retrieved and fertilized, the resulting embryos can be tested to make sure they’re genetically normal and will have a lower chance of miscarriage. This increases the chances of a patient getting pregnant with the healthy embryo and being able to carry it to full term.
IVF gives us the ability to have a trove of information about the baby before a patient is even pregnant. We can even take testing a step further and make sure the baby is a boy or girl, or that the baby doesn’t carry the gene for cystic fibrosis, for example.
4. Babies Born Out of an IVF Procedure are Just As Healthy As Babies Conceived Naturally
Because we can test for the genetic health of the embryos, babies born out of in vitro are just as healthy—if not healthier—than babies born naturally. In fact, the chances of having a healthy baby can be increased because we can screen out those problems that would cause a miscarriage or other pregnancy issues. The chance for miscarriage or Down syndrome isn’t influenced by having in vitro; it’s determined by the age of the woman at the time she conceives, because it’s the eggs that she’s ovulating at that time that determines the chance of a healthy pregnancy and baby.
5. There Are Several Factors that Affect the Success of IVF
While the rate of success is generally high for IVF, the true success is very patient dependent, and determined by three important factors:
- Age: Young women are typically more capable of getting pregnant naturally; older women sometimes have difficultly conceiving naturally as they age. A woman’s age at the time of in vitro is a dramatic determinant of the pregnancy’s success.
- Cause of Infertility: The underlying problem that’s preventing pregnancy is also a very strong determinant of that pregnancy’s success. For example, a woman who has had children in the past but had her tubes tied, will have a tremendously higher chance of getting pregnant through IVF than a woman who has been trying to conceive without success for 20 years.
- Number of Embryo Placed in the Uterus: For every embryo we place in the uterus, there’s a finite chance of pregnancy. If we put more than one embryo in the uterus, there’s more of a chance of pregnancy, but there’s also a higher chance of multiple births; so it becomes a slight balancing act that we discuss with each couple individually.
6. There Isn’t Too Much Involved in the IVF Process
It’s important to know what’s involved with the IVF process before embarking on the journey. During our first appointment with a couple, we go over all the procedures involved—ultrasounds, blood tests and the process for removing the woman’s eggs and placing the fertilized embryos. Patients are often surprised that they don’t have to really interrupt their lives to complete the procedure; the office visits are often short, and they only need to come in a few times.
Women have to keep in mind that the process is very dependent on their cycle, and we will need to know when they ovulate and begin their hormone medication.
7. IVF Does Not Affect Future Fertility
Many patients are concerned that IVF is somehow harmful or that it can cause problems with achieving a natural pregnancy later in life. That’s completely untrue.
Every month, a woman develops a certain number of eggs, and just one of those eggs ovulates—this one egg is what gives a woman her natural chance of pregnancy. All the other eggs a woman produced are discarded. This cycle continues until the woman hits menopause, when all the eggs in the ovaries have developed and been discarded. With the in vitro process, we’re simply taking advantage of all the eggs that are available that month, including the one that would have ovulated and all the others that would have been discarded. It has no effect on menopause at all.
In vitro fertilization offers women and couples a safe and effective way to finally have a baby. Visit the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility online or call us at 520-326-0001 to make an appointment and learn more about in vitro options.