In Vitro Fertilization Means Hope

by Dr. John Couvaras | Follow on Twitter

Infertility can be a painful struggle. Here are 7 reasons to consider IVF.

Share This

PREPARING TO HAVE A CHILD should be one of the happiest times in a person’s life. Unfortunately, the process to conceive is not always an easy one. People may try for years to have children with no success.

Alternative strategies such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) can be very beneficial to couples struggling to create their families. Here are 7 reasons to start considering IVF:

  1. One of the primary reasons that couples seek IVF is due to failure to conceive naturally. This failure is often due to a woman’s irregular reproductive cycle. She might not release an egg every month. Sometimes, women do not experience menstruation at all. This may or may not be caused by a lack of ovulation. A fertility specialist can identify these issues and suggest treatments.
  2. Another problem can be fibroids. Approximately 5 -10 % of infertile women have fibroids. These tumors can change the shape of the cervix and uterus, as well as potentially block fallopian tubes, making conception difficult. If it is achieved, miscarriage is common among those with fibroids.
  3. Hostile cervical mucus can be an issue, as well. During a woman’s ovulation, the cervical mucus should become thin to allow sperm to swim more easily through it. Some women experience unfriendly mucus that can cause harm to sperm and make it too difficult for the sperm to navigate through.
  4. Endometriosis can be an enormous stumbling block in the effort to conceive. It is a condition in which tissue resembling the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus. This tissue can be surgically removed, but natural conception is very rare for those suffering from this condition. In Vitro Fertilization can be the life changing difference for women with endometriosis who want to have a child.
  5. Another group of women who can benefit from In Vitro Fertilization are those who have undergone sterilization, such as tubal litigation. For those who have this procedure, but change their minds, IVF can help. Because the eggs are retrieved by a doctor in this process, those who have had their “tubes tied” can still become pregnant through IVF.
  6. Low sperm count or low sperm motility can also be overcome with the help of In Vitro Fertilization. During this kind of fertility treatment, the best quality sperm are used to fertilize the eggs. IVF eliminates the guesswork. Parents who have used this route can rest easy knowing that healthy sperm was used in the formation of the embryos.
  7. Genetic disorders can easily be passed on to children through natural conception. Through IVF, many of these genetic abnormalities can be spotted and avoided. Only healthy embryos are used. Pre-implantation genetic screening and diagnosis can spot markers for potential issues, allowing doctors to select the healthiest embryos for transplant.

There are many other reasons for which a person or couple may consider In Vitro Fertilization. Sometimes infertility is simply unexplained. If conception does not occur naturally, women should consult a specialist quickly, as success rates are higher for younger women than for those over age 35.

A general rule of thumb is for those under age 35 to seek help after a year of trying to conceive on their own. Women over age 35 should talk to their doctors after about 6 months. This is because every month can be critical in achieving success for older women. It may simply be poor luck, but it is best to talk to a specialist to rule out any medical fertility issues. For those who want to conceive children, but are unable to, the process of IVF can make all the difference.

This fertility treatment can seem daunting, but in reality, it mimics how conception would occur in a properly functioning reproductive tract. Eggs are produced, united with sperm, and travel to the uterus for implantation. The difference is that the work is occurring outside of the body in a laboratory setting.

Below are some general facts about IVF:

  • IVF uses a person’s own eggs and sperm if they are viable. The resulting baby is its parents’ biological child. One can also use donor egg or sperm if necessary or desired.
  • IVF is the most effective type of assisted reproductive technology.
  • Success rates for IVF are steadily climbing among all age groups. Women under age 35 experience close to a 40 % chance of having a baby resulting from this procedure.
  • Unused healthy embryos can be frozen and saved for future use.
  • IVF is an expensive treatment, but some health insurance companies will provide coverage.

Once IVF is decided on as the best course of action by the individual and or couple experiencing trouble conceiving and their fertility doctor, the woman will begin receiving follicle stimulating hormones (FSH). These hormones encourage her ovaries to produce eggs. Prior to collection, another hormone will trigger her ovaries to mature the eggs, preparing them to become fertilized.

The next step is to retrieve the eggs. In a natural setting, an egg would be released down the fallopian tube to hopefully encounter a sperm. Through this process, the eggs are retrieved by a doctor during anesthesia. Ultrasound is used to guide the doctor to the correct location of the ovaries during retrieval. This is generally a simple outpatient procedure.

Once the eggs have been collected and sperm is received, an embryologist will sort the eggs and sperm. The healthiest sperm are isolated and incubated in a Petri dish. The healthy collected eggs are then fertilized with the sperm. This typically occurs from the sperm’s own attempts, but in some cases the eggs are injected with sperm. This is known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI.

The embryos are then monitored over the next few days for signs of progressive development. There should be progression from 2 cells to 4 then 8. By day 5 or 6, the cells should have reached the blastocyst stage. The doctor will evaluate these to determine the best quality embryo for transplant. This maximizes the chance for success.

The number of embryos to be implanted depends upon the woman’s age, risk factors and personal circumstances. When more than one embryo is transplanted, the chances of success grow, but this also increases the risk of multiples. Multiple babies can compromise a mother’s health. A doctor can help a woman determine the best option for her unique situation.

Once the best embryo or embryos have been identified, they can be transplanted to the uterus. This is a simple and quick procedure that does not require anesthesia. Once the embryos have been transplanted, there is about a 2 week wait before beta pregnancy testing can begin. Rising levels of the pregnancy hormone HCG can be detected first through blood tests and soon after through urine tests.

IVF has a large number of benefits for those struggling with infertility. For women with inconsistent ovulation, they can be assured that a viable egg has been obtained. Similarly, men with sperm count or motility problems can comfortably know that healthy sperm were identified and used in the embryo formation.

While there is no guarantee that the transplanted embryo will implant and result in a healthy pregnancy, In Vitro Fertilization can give those unable to naturally conceive the assurance of the best possible chance for a successful conception.

Infertility can be a painful struggle. Thankfully, medical science gives new hope to those who might otherwise not be able to conceive. Through fertility treatments like IVF, women can address conception problems and create families.

Thanks to In Vitro Fertilization, there is hope for those who have exhausted natural methods.

About the Author
Dr. John Couvaras

Dr. John Couvaras, Fertility Specialist and Medical Director at IVF Phoenix, leads the friendly and experienced team at Arizona’s top fertility treatment centers located in Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona. He is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is an active member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Dr. Couvaras is a fertility doctor who is unconditionally committed to his work and strives to work with his patients to design a plan that fits their diagnosis and their desires.