Are you considering seeking IVF treatment? Regardless of if you are beginning a cycle or thinking about it, you need to be fully informed. Unfortunately, many doctors, nurses and other fertility experts leave out a number of “small details” that can seriously impact your experience and desire to continue. There is no question that IVF can be the miracle you have been dreaming of, to finally conceive the child you want; however, knowing the full effect and impact of this treatment is crucial prior to moving forward.
How IVF REALLY Works
Unless you have undergone IVF treatment in the past, chances are the specifics may be a bit surprising. IVF treatment involves both oral meds and injections to stimulate your ovaries to make more than one egg (which is all that is produced during the typical menstrual cycle). After several weeks of these meds and shots, you have to undergo outpatient surgery to retrieve the eggs, which is done with a super-skinny needle. This process takes between 15 and 30 minutes. Once given to the lab, the egg (or, hopefully eggs) are exposed to the sperm for fertilization, hopefully resulting in the formation of an embryo.
In the past, the embryos were promptly transferred to the uterus; however, today, many doctors wait a while to do this. Thanks to embryo freezing technology, you have the opportunity to have your period allowing a more receptive uterine environment to be created. This is not present if you are fresh off your fertility meds.
You Never Produce as Many Eggs as You Think
Did you know that you were born with a specific number of eggs? The average woman has an estimated two million eggs. However, the drop-off volume in your eggs doesn’t just happen when you begin using them (aka menstruation). By puberty, you are already down by about 300,000. Also, you only experience between 300 and 400 ovulated eggs during your life. The rest are essentially broken down inside of the ovaries.
Your Healthy Eggs May Not be Usable
As you age, you will have fewer and fewer healthy eggs. Just 15 years ago, most doctors would agree that women over the age of 42 didn’t have a chance of a successful pregnancy. However, each woman is different and dependent on her embryos and ovaries, there is no set, strict limit. It is all dependent on you and your ovaries and overall health.
Doctors can easily test the health of your eggs with a pelvic ultrasound and blood test. If you have weaker ovaries or a lower number of eggs, you may not respond as successfully to IVF treatment. As a result, you may need to consider ART earlier than someone who has stronger ovaries.
The Quality of Your Eggs is (Somewhat) Up to You
Here is some good news, which is likely something you have been waiting for. When you follow a few healthy habits, you can make the most of what you have in your so-called “egg reserves.” What you decide to eat and put into your body can affect the overall quality of the eggs you produce. It can also affect the development of your embryo and your chances of successfully getting pregnant. You should try to follow a diet that is rich in protein and veggies and low in sugar. Also, it is a good idea to minimize your alcohol intake three months prior to starting IVF treatment. This can help to increase the quality of your embryos.
Now Two Sperm are Created Equal
It may sound a bit harsh, but it is oh-so-true. If your spouse or partner has poor sperm quality, it can significantly reduce the chances of a successful pregnancy. If the sperm quality is considered “excellent” doctors may mix the egg and sperm together and let nature take its course. However, if the sperm is considered “suboptimal” each egg is injected with one, single sperm. Keep in mind, this method of IVF often costs much more than letting the egg and sperm “go at it” in a Petri dish.
The fact is, there are no guarantees with IVF. While this is common knowledge, it is something that women and men who are undergoing this treatment need to understand and accept. IVF can help you achieve your dream of having a baby; however, there are some factors that you should fully understand and be able to accept prior to undergoing this treatment. It will help you better accept the realities of VF treatment.