Looking into whether IVF is the right choice for your family? Then no doubt you’ve been flooded with information on the process. Success stories, horror stories, scientific articles, opinion pieces–and much of it conflicting with one another. It can be confusing and frustrating to sort through all the information.
Here we’ve compiled a list of 7 helpful things you may not know about IVF to help you on your journey to parenthood.
IVF is a Process, Not a Quick Fix
There’s an idea in our society is the solution to infertility. Can’t get pregnant? Just do IVF!
Of course, like all things fertility-related, it isn’t that simple. IVF is a highly involved process. You meet with specialists and undergo tests. You get injections. You stimulate follicles and collect eggs. You create embryos. You implant. You wait.
It takes time. Hopefully not too much, but it can easily take a few rounds. That average, in fact, is at least two rounds.
That’s because, as with all processes, there are variables to consider. A few variables with IVF are: hormones, medication, sperm quality, egg quality, age of mother (or age of donor), and more. Sometimes your doctor will tweak a few variables to yield a different result. That’s normal.
In a process like this, it helps to go in expecting a process and to have a good support team behind you. Choose a fertility clinic with a team of specialists you trust and keep in touch throughout the process.
IVF Affects Partners, Too
In a typical IVF protocol (if “typical” exists in a procedure like this), a woman will have ultrasounds and injections. She’ll experience side effects that range from bloating to nausea to fatigue, not to mention all the changes that will come with pregnancy and birth. It goes without saying that it has a huge impact on women.
What perhaps does not get said enough is the impact it has on the partners. They aren’t having the physically experience but they are affected emotionally and psychologically. They, too, experience the highs and lows of the process. They, too, can feel drained, discouraged, inadequate, frustrated and anxious.
Often partners want to fix the problem. They want to be supportive. They want to feel useful.
Working through the peaks and valleys together can be tremendously helpful for both parents.
IVF May Be a Good Solution in Cases of Male Factor Infertility
One persistent myth of infertility is that responsibility lies in the woman. The fact is, according to the National Institutes of Health statistics on infertility, men and women are about equally likely to be the cause of infertility.
Where low sperm count, poor motility, or a number of other issues prevents successful pregnancy by natural means, IVF may be a good alternative.
Your Chance of Live Birth is about 30%
According to the Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology, one in every hundred babies born in the US was conceived through procedures like IVF. Just as with natural pregnancy, IVF carries risk of miscarriage. In the decades since IVF began, however, those chances have dropped dramatically. 30 years ago you had about a 5% chance of live birth with each cycle. Today, your chances are closer to 30% or more.
One of the most important factors to success is the woman’s age (or the age of the donor’s eggs). Rates drop off starting at age 35. Check with your clinic for information on their live birth rates.
Alcohol Can Greatly Reduce Your Chances of Success
We’ve written previously about the numerous factors that impact a round of IVF. Factors include age, health of parents/sperm/eggs, sleep, stress and caffeine. One of the biggest negative contributors is alcohol, and not just for women. Men’s consumption can also seriously impact success.
One study showed that men who drink beer daily lower their chances of fertilization. Another study showed that women who drink white wine had a 22% reduction in implantation success. A third study boosted implantation failure rates by 50%.
While you’re undergoing IVF, and maybe for a few months before starting, it’s best to seriously limit your alcohol intake.
Preconception Health Is For Men, Too
Women are given lots of information about preconception diet and health. They’re informed by magazines, healthcare practitioners, friends and family. Men are typically not given the same information. It tends to be assumed that if a man can ejaculate, he can get a woman pregnant.
But a single sperm makes up half of the embryo that develops into a baby. It makes sense that his health is just as essential to IVF success as hers. And it helps to be a healthy man.
Alcohol and smoking negatively impact sperm health, and so do stress, obesity, low exercise, heat exposure, and poor diet. In fact, many of the recommendations given to women for preconception can be applied to men. This includes stress management, moderate exercise, a nutrient-dense diet with supplementation where appropriate and abstaining from (or seriously limiting) smoking and alcohol.
You May Have Extra Embryos
It’s a myth that IVF will lead to multiple babies. These days IVF is one of the least likely reproductive options to lead to multiples as more and more the field aims to produce healthy singleton babies.
It still begins, however, with multiple embryos. One of the reasons for this is that IVF can take multiple cycles. Your fees typically cover cryopreservation of embryos at the start of your treatment.
And, if all goes well, you may never need another embryo. What do you do then?
Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) allows you to preserve them for a future IVF cycle. It’s typically less expensive this way. Starting with embryos effectively shortcuts the process. There are storage fees and time limits involved in this option but it gives you the option to grow your family in the future.
You can donate the embryos to another couple. There are agencies that work with this, or your clinic may handle it. As with any donation, laws apply and it’s best to seek the counsel of a lawyer before deciding to go this route.
If you’d prefer your embryos be disposed of, this may be an option for you, you have a few options available to you.
You may donate them to science. Local laws apply here, too, Check with your clinic to see if they can assist, and be sure to check with a lawyer. If you go this route, you should have the right to learn the research they’ll be used for.
You may be allowed to have the clinic dispose of them or to bury them yourself (local laws have some power here). Check with your clinic for their policies.
Or you may be allowed what is sometimes called “compassionate transfer” where the embryos are implanted at a point in the cycle when pregnancy is impossible.
But perhaps the most important thing to know about IVF before you begin is that a good team of specialists makes a world of difference. Infertility is tough and IVF can be, too. Work with a team of specialists that sees you as a whole person, that shares your vision for your family and supports you in realizing your dream.