A Beginner’s Guide To IVF

In recent years there have been significant advances within IVF technology - and success rates for those undergoing IVF treatment have greatly improved. Because of this, increasing numbers of couples and individuals with fertility problems are turning to IVF to help start a family. However, with such regular developments occurring, it can be often be confusing for couples and individuals to keep track of the most accurate information available and fully understand all the options open to them. With the 40-year anniversary of the first successful IVF treatment approaching (10th November), I thought it would be a fitting time for me to share some insight and advice on the topic of IVF - to help provide some clarity for those who may be considering the treatment: PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FERTILITY CLOCK "Couples and individuals who wish to undergo IVF treatment should be aware that there is a direct link between age and the success of IVF treatment. Typically, women over the age of 35 experience much lower success rates, if using their own eggs. This is because egg quality and ovarian reserve begin to decline around this age. However, this does not apply if an older patient uses eggs from a younger donor. Women up to around 50 years of age can conceive a child if they use donated eggs, and with donated eggs have equal chances of success to women under the age of 35 with their own eggs. It is important to note though that the older the mother, the greater the strain that the pregnancy puts on the body. There are also various lifestyle factors to consider if you decide to become a mum at an older age." BE A HEALTHY WEIGHT BEFORE UNDERGOING IVF "Weight can affect the success rates of IVF - if you are too light, or too heavy, your success rates can reduce. We encourage our patients to eat a balanced diet and partake in regular exercise, to ensure that they are both physically and mentally healthy. However, there is no scientific research to prove that any specific foods can improve IVF success rates." FROZEN EGGS ARE AS EFFECTIVE AS FRESH EGGS "A common myth surrounding IVF treatment is that freezing your eggs will make them weaker and less effective. However, this is inaccurate as patients who use frozen eggs have the same chances of success as those who use fresh eggs. The most important factor to keep in mind is the age of the patient when they choose to undergo egg freezing. We generally recommend that women freeze their eggs before they reach the age of 35, if they would like the maximum chances of success with IVF using their own eggs later in life." IVF CAN BE CARRIED OUT USING DONATED EGGS AND/OR SPERM "Unfortunately, not everyone is able to conceive naturally, or use their own sperm/eggs. There can be many possible reasons for this, for example the woman could have PCOS, endometriosis, or a low ovarian reserve; a man could have a low sperm count. For other patients, their infertility could simply be age-related. So, in some situations sperm, eggs or even embryos from a donor can be used as part of your fertility treatment. Donor conception is becoming increasingly common and thousands of babies are born annually through this method." MULTIPLE PREGNANCIES ARE COMMON "Statistics show that multiple pregnancies are much more common for those undergoing IVF treatment than for those having a natural pregnancy. Only three per cent of natural pregnancies result in the birth of twins. With IVF it can be up to 33 per cent. A multiple pregnancy may be desirable for many couples, but it does pose risks for both the mother and the new-born babies both during and after pregnancy. Because of this, the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) has now advised fertility clinics to decrease the rate of twin pregnancies by focusing on single embryo transfer (SET), rather than double. Although SET was initially met with skepticism from some patients who thought they would be reducing their chances of falling pregnant by just transferring one embryo, IVF techniques have now advanced to such a level that studies have shown there is little difference in success rates between the transfer of one or two embryos." DON'T BE EMBARASSED "For IVF and everything to do with infertility, there are a lot of intimate questions asked and intimate areas examined. Doctors, nurses, and sonographers are aware of this, but at the same time it is their reality, so they don't get embarrassed as they try to find a solution for a patient's particular problem. So, the patient shouldn't be embarrassed either!" KEEP CALM "Assisted reproduction treatments, such as IVF, can often cause stress and anxiety for patients - particularly during the time of embryo development. At Institut Marquès we have created a pioneering new mobile application, called Embryomobile, which can help future parents cope with the stress of IVF treatment. Embryomobile allows patients to observe the evolution of their embryos from the comfort of their own home by means of the Embryoscope, a high-tech incubator with an incorporated video camera that films embryo development. We interviewed 400 patients after they used Embryomobile and found that 91% felt that it helped them to feel calmer during the IVF process.