In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an advanced method of assisted reproductive technology that can be one of the fastest, most-effective ways to overcome infertility problems.
The whole concept of fertility treatment can be intimidating, but the more you know about how IVF works, what you can expect, and how to prepare, the easier it can be to decide if IVF is what you want to pursue.
Here’s everything you should know about IVF when starting your fertility treatment journey:
How Long Has IVF Been Around?
The first “test-tube baby” was born way back in 1978. Since then, more than eight million babies have been conceived via IVF and other advanced reproductive methods.
Over the decades, both the science involved in the IVF process and the success rates have improved dramatically. There is a slight chance of premature labor, multiple births, and other complications with IVF, but those problems have decreased over the years. IVF is safer than ever before for both patients and their babies.
What Does the IVF Process Entail?
In general, conventional IVF treatment (which is often the first avenue of approach when less invasive fertility methods have failed) involves several steps:
- Fertility drugs (usually hormone-based injections) are used to stimulate the patient’s ovaries. This helps improve both the quantity and the quality of the eggs available for fertilization.
- The patient is monitored via ultrasounds and bloodwork to check their hormone levels and the maturity of their eggs. Additional hormone injections may also be used to trigger egg maturity before collection.
- Once ripe, the mature eggs are retrieved from the patient’s ovaries through a mild surgical process while the patient is under anesthesia.
- The eggs are fertilized in the IVF lab with sperm from the woman’s partner or a donor to start the embryonic development.
- An embryo (or embryos) is then transferred back into the woman’s uterus through a flexible catheter in hopes that implantation will result in a successful pregnancy.
Patients also may choose to have embryos cryopreserved for future use, which can make additional attempts at fertilization much easier and less costly. It’s also a useful way for women who are concerned about the quality of their remaining eggs to plan ahead for the future.
These days, however, IVF comes in several different forms and each plan is highly customized according to the specific needs of the patient. For example, patients who haven’t responded well to fertility medications or those who are concerned about the cost of treatment may find Natural IVF more appropriate.
What Else Can Be Involved in IVF?
Modern assisted reproductive technology is often coupled with genetic testing or screening methods. The goal is to simultaneously reduce the number of cycles it takes a woman to get pregnant and increase the odds of a healthy birth.
Preimplantation genetic screening, for example, can increase your chances of a successful pregnancy by up to 30% because it allows your doctor to make sure that only the healthiest embryos are used for implantation.
Preimplantation genetic screening is also useful when couples want to use gender selection as part of their family planning. It also lowers the chance of multiple or premature births and reduces the risk that multiple cycles will be needed for a successful pregnancy. That’s ultimately less costly for patients financially and emotionally.
Are There Any Side-Effects From IVF?
Those who take fertility medication as part of their IVF process may experience side effects that are common with hormone treatments, including:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
There may be some minimal discomfort after the eggs are harvested and again when they are implanted, but most women find the process very tolerable.
How Do You Pick the Right Doctor for Your IVF Treatment?
Just like their patients, every fertility doctor and clinic is different. Because this one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make, it’s wise to choose your doctor carefully.
Up to a point, your decision may be subjective. Do you want a doctor whose approach is very clinical and matter-of-fact? Do you want someone who has a great bedside manner? Do you have cultural or religious considerations that matter to your decision? How important is distance or cost?
Naturally, you also want to carefully investigate your potential choices for their technical abilities, as well. Here are some questions you should ask:
- Is the doctor a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist? These doctors have specialized training that allows them to tackle challenging cases involving complex disorders that can hamper fertility in ways that other doctors cannot.
- Does the clinic or doctor offer a wide range of fertility treatments? As noted above, conventional IVF is just one of many potential options to treat infertility. Look for a doctor who avoids the “one size fits all” approach to infertility.
- Can you get more than just IVF through the doctor’s clinic? When the doctor offers all the appropriate satellite services that go along with IVF, including advanced processes like genetic counseling and screening, cryopreservation of eggs and embryos, and embryo grading, it improves the odds of success.
- Does the clinic or doctor offer financial assistance? Fertility treatments are expensive, so some doctors offer financing options, money-back guarantees, and financial counseling for their patients to make IVF more affordable.
- What are the IVF success rates associated with the clinic or doctor? National averages for IVF success are just that — averages. They don’t reflect a specific doctor’s skill or abilities. Make sure you know how the success rates of the doctor you choose compare with the averages.
The right fertility doctor for your cousin, best friend, or co-worker may not be the right fertility doctor for you. Take your time to explore your options, read plenty of patient reviews, and trust your instincts when it comes time to make a choice.
When you’re struggling with fertility issues, work with a world-renowned specialist who will create a customized IVF plan that takes your unique situation and needs into consideration. Call New Hope Fertility Long Island at 212-969-7422 or reach out to us through our online form to learn more.