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IVF May Have Grown in Popularity, But It’s Not Always the Right Choice

Multiple births garner a lot of notoriety these days. Some even get their own reality show. Ever heard of Jon & Kate Plus Eight? Quints by Surprise? Raising Septuplets? While families whose in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments have resulted in an instant brood tend to get the most media attention, the real goal of IVF is to enable couples to have ONE healthy baby at a time, and to create additional embryos that can be used if the first try with IVF does not succeed, or can be frozen until you’re ready for a second child.

While IVF may be the most well-known method to treat infertility, most couples don’t need it. Up to 90 percent of infertility issues can be corrected with medication or minimally invasive surgery. But for anyone struggling to start a family, IVF has represented new hope since it was first introduced in 1978.


The basics of IVF
IVF is defined as any fertility treatment where both an egg and sperm are removed from the body and used to create an embryo in a lab setting. The embryo is then placed back into the uterus to grow and develop, just like in a natural pregnancy.intracytoplasmic sperm injection

In an IVF cycle, a woman takes fertility medication to stimulate egg production. When they are mature, her eggs are retrieved during a simple outpatient procedure, and combined with sperm in our lab to facilitate fertilization. The resulting embryos are then transferred to the woman’s uterus where, hopefully, a pregnancy develops.

Success for IVF depends on many factors, such as the number and quality of the eggs and sperm. Success rates decrease as women age. Overall, in women under age 35, the chance for achieving a pregnancy with one IVF cycle is about 45-50% if one embryo is transferred, and approximately 55% if two embryos are transferred.

Transferring two embryos does not double the chance for pregnancy, but significantly increases the risk for multiples. Therefore, the national guidelines from the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) are that for most women, only one embryo should be transferred at a time. The actual birth rate for IVF is a bit lower than that.

Women who don’t ovulate on their own, or don’t respond to medications to stimulate ovulation, might be good candidates for IVF. Those who have had a tubal ligation or had their fallopian tubes removed may also benefit. Men who have had a vasectomy or those with sperm abnormalities could be a good fit. Couples whose infertility is still unexplained after extensive testing or those who have exhausted other treatment options should explore IVF.


Know the risks
Though it doesn’t happen as often as reality TV would lead us to believe, IVF can result in multiple births. The higher number of embryos transferred, the higher the risk. Even with just one embryo, it can split after transfer into the uterus and result in identical twins. We therefore strongly encourage to transfer only one good-quality embryo for most of our patients.

Women who undergo IVF are at risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which can lead to swelling of the hands and feet, as well as accumulation of fluid in the belly or lungs. As trained IVF and women’s health specialists, we monitor our patients closely throughout their IVF cycle and take measures to decrease their risk of developing OHSS.


Alternate IVF variations
If you’re not interested or eligible for traditional IVF, there may be other options. For example, mini-IVF requires minimal stimulation medications, and natural cycle IVF does not require ovulation stimulation medications at all.

In egg donor IVF, a woman who has no eggs of her own can ask either a known or anonymous donor to undergo IVF stimulation and egg retrieval. The resulting embryo would be transferred to her own uterus for gestation.

During a frozen embryo transfer cycle (FET), a frozen embryo is thawed and transferred at the perfect time. The patient does not have to undergo stimulation and egg retrieval, making the process less costly, less stressful and less invasive.


Learn more
And, as we mentioned earlier, you may not need IVF at all, or you could be a better fit for different infertility treatments. If you’re struggling to start a family, contact us for a consultation. We’ll do a complete evaluation to determine which of our cutting-edge treatments will get you the best results. Call us at (502) 897-2144.

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