Fertility
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    What is in Vitro Fertilisation?

    An Introduction to IVF

    You may have heard the term In Vitro Fertilisation spoken about by doctors, on the TV, on the radio, or in articles online. However, you may not know exactly what In Vitro Fertilisation is, or what it actually does. In this article, we will answer the question of what In Vitro Fertilisation is, as well as many more questions you may have about it. Whilst you may now know what In Vitro Fertilisation is, you will most likely know what it is used for, and how it is used to help people. 

    What is IVF?

    In Vitro Fertilisation is more commonly known as IVF. IVF is one of the most popular methods of helping people to have a baby when they are struggling with conception. IVF works by fertilising an egg that is removed from a woman’s ovaries with a sperm cell from a man’s sperm cell in a laboratory. This fertilised embryo will then be returned to the woman’s womb where it will grow and develop into a baby. 

    Who would IVF be recommended to?

    IVF is not available for everyone. Usually, IVF would be offered to women under the age of 43 who have been actively trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for at least two years. IVF will also be offered to people who have had 12 cycles of artificial insemination with at least six cycles of a method called intrauterine insemination. Artificial insemination is the process of placing a man’s sperm cell directly into a woman’s womb. 

    IVF is available from the NHS, however, it will be down to the patient's local integrated care board (ICB) to decide whether or not someone will be able to get IVF funded by the NHS. You can get IVF from private health care providers, however, this can be expensive, and could cost over £5,000 for a single cycle.

    How long does IVF take?

    On average, one cycle of IVF from start to finish will take around three weeks. This will include removing the egg from a woman and a sperm cell from a man, combining them together in a laboratory and then placing them back into the woman’s womb. In some cases, IVF will be split into different stages and will take longer than average. 

    During the process, several embryos will be created in a lab. A scientist will allow these to develop for around six days, they will then select the strongest embryo for implantation and the other embryos may then be frozen for future cycles if necessary. 

    Why is IVF useful?

    IVF is the most effective form of assisted fertilisation and is incredibly useful for people who struggle to naturally conceive a child. IVF is often considered the most viable option for couples who are struggling to conceive even after trying other methods such as artificial insemination. 

    What is the typical IVF success rate?

    The typical success rate for In Vitro Fertilisation will vary depending on age. Below is a list of the average success rates of IVF for people of different ages in 2019:

    • 32% for women under 35

    • 25% for women aged 35 to 37

    • 19% for women aged 38 to 39

    • 11% for women aged 40 to 42

    • 5% for women aged 43 to 44

    • 4% for women aged over 44

    IVF is usually not recommended for those over the age of 42 as the chances of falling pregnant are already much lower after this age. 

    What can I do to boost my chances of successful IVF?

    In order to boost your chances of successful IVF implantation leading to pregnancy and birth, there are some things you can do. You should ensure you maintain a healthy weight, as well as reducing your caffeine intake. You can also boost your chances of successful IVF treatment by cutting your alcohol intake and stopping smoking.  

    What can I do if IVF doesn't work?

    Unfortunately, many cases of IVF treatment will be unsuccessful. It is best to go into IVF treatment without getting your hopes up, and you should be prepared for the possibility that it may not work. If IVF is unsuccessful then you may wish to try it again, however, it is recommended you take a break between treatments. Doing IVF again privately can also be expensive, so you may need to weigh up the financial costs as well. If you have many unsuccessful IVF attempts you can visit counselling sessions in order to help you through the process. 

    What are the stages of IVF treatment?

    The stages of IVF will always follow the same format. These stages will remain the same, however, the length of time each process takes will vary each time. The stages are as follows:

    • A woman’s menstrual cycle will be suppressed using the medicine.

    • Medicine is given to a woman to help her ovaries produce more than one egg at a time.

    • An ultrasound scan is carried out to check the development of the eggs, and medicine is used to help them mature.

    • A needle is inserted into the vagina and ovaries to remove these eggs.

    • A fresh sperm sample is collected from the man, this is then cleaned and spun and the strongest sperm are selected for use. 

    • The eggs are mixed with the sperm for a few days to allow them to be fertilised.

    • One or two fertilised eggs, also known as embryos, are placed into the womb.

    How safe is IVF?

    IVF is considered to be a safe process and the majority of people who have the treatment are safe and have no complications at all. However, as with all other procedures, there are some risks that people considering IVF should be aware of prior to having it. 

    What are the risks of IVF?

    As with other medical procedures, IVF is not without risk. The following is a list of the main risks outlined by the NHS that you need to be aware of prior to having IVF. Your doctor should outline these risks, as well as others that are more tailored to you. 

    • Side effects from the medicines used during treatment, such as hot flushes and headaches.

    • Multiple births such as twins or triplets. This can be dangerous for both the mother and the children.

    • An ectopic pregnancy. This is where the embryo implants in the fallopian tubes, rather than in the womb.

    • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). This is where the ovaries overreact to the medicines used during IVF.

    Will an IVF baby be healthy?

    Babies that are born through IVF will be just as healthy as a baby that is born through natural conception. Previously it was thought that IVF babies would be more susceptible to complications whilst growing. This is however not the case, and upon successful implantation the baby will then grow as if it had been conceived naturally. 

    What are the signs of failed IVF?

    After a woman has had the embryo implanted into her womb she must then wait for two weeks. This is known as the two week wait, for obvious reasons. It will take around two weeks for the embryo to successfully implant itself into the womb, which is why you need to wait two weeks before taking a pregnancy test. A test will only detect pregnancy once a specific hormone is released, this hormone is hCG. 

    How much does IVF cost in the UK?

    As previously mentioned, you can get IVF treatment from the NHS, however, this may be rejected by the local integrated care board (ICB). You can pay for IVF treatment, and this will usually cost around £5,000 or more. As there is a low chance of success, IVF may take several courses before you get a result.  

    Where can I buy fertility tests online?

    Prior to visiting your doctor to talk about IVF you may wish to take an at home fertility test in order to learn more about your own personal fertility. At UK Meds, you can purchase both male and female fertility tests from Babystart. Babystart’s range of products are designed to help men, women, and couples to discover more about their fertility, giving them the chance to make the necessary changes in order for them to conceive.. 

    Sources

    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ivf/risks/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_vitro_fertilisation

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/in-vitro-fertilization/about/pac-20384716

    https://www.hfea.gov.uk/treatments/explore-all-treatments/in-vitro-fertilisation-ivf/

    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007279.htm

    https://www.healthline.com/health/in-vitro-fertilization-ivf

    https://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/in-vitro-fertilization

    https://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/in-vitro-fertilization-ivf-what-are-the-risks/

    https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/fertility-treatments/what-ivf

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