What is IVF?
IVF (in vitro fertilisation) is a way of bringing human eggs and sperm together outside the human body. The aim is to fertilise the eggs, create an embryo and then transfer the embryo to the uterus. IVF involves many steps, which take several weeks to complete.
These are the main steps in the IVF process:
- Ovary stimulation: if you’re a woman having IVF treatment, you need to take hormones to stimulate your ovaries so that you make more than one egg per menstrual cycle.
- Monitoring: ultrasound and blood samples are used to monitor the development of your eggs.
- Collection: healthy eggs and sperm are collected from you and your partner. Sometimes you might use a sperm or egg donor, depending on your circumstances. You’ll need to go to hospital and have a short procedure to have your eggs collected.
- Fertilisation: the eggs and sperm are mixed using special equipment in a laboratory. If the sperm fertilises the egg, an embryo starts to grow. Usually several embryos are made, and some are frozen. If you need to have more rounds of IVF, you can use a frozen embryo.
- Embryo transfer: the embryo is put into the uterus during a short procedure in hospital. This is usually five days after the egg collection.
- Pregnancy test: this is done with a blood test around two weeks after the embryo transfer.
Twins used to be very common in IVF pregnancies, because the process usually involved transferring at least two embryos. Today it’s usual to transfer just a single embryo in each round of IVF.
Who is IVF for?
If you’ve been trying to conceive for a year without getting pregnant, IVF might be an option for you. IVF is also an option for people who want to be parents and need help to get pregnant for other reasons. This might include lesbian women, gay men and single straight women.
If you’re interested in IVF, the first step is to talk with your GP, who can give you some basic information about it and refer you to a specialist or clinic.
You might also consider speaking to a specialist fertility counsellor about the process and experience of IVF. You can get a referral to a fertility counsellor through your GP or IVF clinic.
IVF can cost several thousand dollars, even with private health insurance and the Medicare rebate. Make sure you speak to your doctor or clinic about costs before you start any treatment. Different clinics might charge different prices for treatment.
Chances of success with IVF
Your chances of getting pregnant with IVF depend on many things, including your age and health.
Some women go through many rounds of IVF before they get pregnant. About a third of women get pregnant on their first round and about half of women are pregnant after three rounds. For some women, IVF doesn’t work at all. The IVF success rate is lower for older women.
Your feelings about IVF
It’s hard not to get your hopes up about getting pregnant with IVF, although you might try to tell yourself not to get too excited. If IVF isn’t successful in the first round, it’s natural to feel disappointed. Your feelings can be even more complicated if you’ve gone through several rounds of IVF. You might start to wonder whether it’s going to happen for you.
Your feelings during IVF treatment might be affected by the hormones that you have to take, which can make you feel more emotional than usual. Some parts of the treatment might affect the way you feel about your body. And some parts might leave you feeling physically uncomfortable, which can affect your emotions too.
The costs of IVF might cause you stress, especially if you’ve gone through several rounds of IVF already.
For all of these reasons, IVF can be a challenging experience.
Anyone who’s been through the experience of infertility then IVF will tell you it’s an emotional roller-coaster of anxiety, waiting and unpleasant medical treatment that involves lots of hormone treatment. It really makes you appreciate what a miracle conception is.
– Jess, mother of one
Help and support for people using IVF
If you’re feeling stress or anxiety, this is normal during IVF treatment. But you don’t have to deal with it by yourself. Try talking to a trusted friend or family member about how you’re feeling. It’s also a very good idea to speak with your GP, who can help you get the support you need.
If you’re going through IVF, it’s important to look after your physical health with plenty of exercise, healthy food and rest. If you feel physically well, you’ll be able to cope better with stress.
The IVF experience can sometimes put a strain on your relationship with your partner. It’s important to keep talking and listening to each other as you go through the experience. And if things get tough, you could try talking to Relationships Australia, Family Relationships Online or a local relationships counsellor.
Some people need to use donor sperm or eggs. This can be a complex, stressful and emotional decision. If this sounds like your situation, it’s a good idea to talk with a fertility counsellor.
When you have an IVF baby
Looking after a newborn is hard work. But if you’re a new parent with a baby conceived through IVF, you might feel that you can’t complain, and that you should just be grateful for having the baby you’ve always wanted.
It’s always OK to ask for help when you need it, and there are many people who can help you, including your GP and your child and family health nurse.
And if you’ve conceived through IVF, you might be wondering about your child’s health, growth and development. It might help to know that children conceived through IVF generally grow up as healthy as children conceived naturally.
There are so many hurdles with IVF – you have to have good eggs, enough of them, they must be fertilised successfully, then they must implant. Those weeks dragged by, none more than the dreaded two-week wait after the embryo had been implanted. All the while we were gearing ourselves up for the worst at every stage, protecting ourselves so we wouldn’t fall too hard if things didn’t work out.
– Jess, mother of one