How successful is IVF?
One of my dearest friends didn’t meet her soulmate until she was 40. She had led an amazing life, travelled the world, lived overseas, made friends in every continent. But when she finally found a man she wanted to become parents with, her body had other plans.
She has turned to in vitro fertilisation. I suspect that no one really wants to take the IVF path, but it is amazing that we do have this option to turn to when nature is just not playing nice. For any woman who needs assistance with getting pregnant it may be their only choice. But what does it put you through?
There are many questions around in vitro fertilisation, and we will skim the surface of some these for you below. As always, this is very general information, and in no way replaces the wise advice of your general practitioner or baby-making team.
Does IVF work?
Fertility treatment has a number of different names, two of the most common are IVF and IUI. Through IVF the sperm and eggs are combined magically outside the woman’s body and then inserted, whereas through IUI (or intrauterine insemination) the sperm are made into super-sperm and then inserted directly into the woman’s body for the magic to happen. My scientific language may not be technically correct, but you get the idea.
IVF is the most common and most successful way to help women to conceive. It has been around now for over thirty years, and medical developments continue to be made, making it more successful and less tolling on the couples involved. It does work, but there are caveats to this. Let’s look at some numbers:
· IVF can have up to 40% success rate for woman under 30
· Success rate can drop to as little as 8% for women over 40 years of age
· US figures show that after more than 3 cycles of IVF chances of success can increase to up to 70%
· In vitro fertilisation success rates vary greatly depending on individual factors, including the mother’s age, her health, the reason for fertility issues, and the practices of the specific clinic.
With the majority of couples, success at fertility treatment will take a few goes. If you are looking at trying this sort of treatment, doctors recommend that you prepare yourself financially and also on an emotional level for facing more than one cycle (and therefore for at least another failure to conceive).
A cycle will take around 4 weeks (like menstruation), but you may need to wait a few months after an unsuccessful trail before going again. This will also depend again on your specific reasons for trouble conceiving.
Australian fertility clinics tend to be less inclined to implant multiple eggs at a time because of the risks involved to the mother and baby, which may affect statistics. You can talk to your clinic about its policy on this issue.
The IUI success rates are lower, with around 10% chances of success in the first cycle.
How does my age affect IVF success?
IVF success rates are affected by age, and you probably know. Once a woman is over 37 her fertility levels drop off dramatically, with the body no longer in primary baby-making mode. This of course doesn’t mean that women older than that can’t carry a healthy baby to term, and is precisely why of the reasons why IVF is an option.
Your weight and personal health can also affect your chances of IVF implantation success.
What does IVF cost?
Fortunately, in Australia our Medicare system cops around half the cost of the fertility treatments, but it can still be an expensive process. Again, it will vary from clinic to clinic (and there some entirely bulk-billed clinics), but each cycle will usually leave you out-of-pocket about $4000.
What can I do to get my body ready?
You can do quite a bit to get yourself ready for your IVF treatment, as you can for trying to get pregnant naturally.
Some great steps you can take include:
· If relevant, reduce your weight. It is more likely that you will conceive if you are within the healthy weight range for your height.
· Get some regular, gentle exercise. Your body will be more ready for the process if your fitness is better. You don’t have to go crazy, just get the heart rate going several times a week with a walk, a boogie or an invigorating cleaning session.
· Improve your diet: Healthy eating is better. This means less processed foods and sugar, lots of healthy fats, lean protein and fruit and vegetables. Also, up your healthy grains and dairy, and maximise your water intake. Look for foods that are high in alkaline, beta-carotene and vitamin C. Apparently pineapple is really good.
· Stop alcohol (I know, I’m sorry, but it’s true)
· No coffee (you hate me now, don’t you).
· Stop smoking
· Get enough sleep. This is always good advice, and if you become pregnant you are not going to sleep for the next twenty years anyway, so you should probably try to catch up now.
There are other things that may help, but there is limited scientific evidence as to how much. Natural therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, reiki and more can have some positive effect on your body. Again, getting a massage is always a good idea, and you might as well get one anyway, you probably deserve it.
Psychologically it can be a difficult process, but if you are reading this article, you have probably already experienced quite a bit of that already. IVF clinics will provide counselling sessions as part of the process which may really help you. Also seeking out support groups, even through social media, may be beneficial as well and can be a very good idea.
Being pregnant and having a baby is all pretty stressful, but adding IVF to the matter ups the anxiety factor quite a bit. Be kind to yourself and your partner, and make them be kind to you. It’s a difficult road, but a road well worth taking once you are holding your baby in your arms. And then the next twenty years starts, so, good luck with that!