"The desire for a family is a strong emotional force and IVF has provided a solution for many couples. IVF research is ongoing and the possibility of successful pregnancies is improving. Read on for up-to-date information on current expert thinking in relation to IVF and trends in usage of fertility programs." Dr Christine Bennett, Chair, Medical Advisory Panel, Bupa Australia
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a form of assisted reproductive technology used to help a woman who has been unable to conceive naturally. 'In vitro' means 'in glass' IVF is the process used to conceive a child outside the body.
The main reason for its use is infertility. Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after trying for one year or the inability to carry a pregnancy to achieve a live birth. With IVF, a woman's eggs and a man's sperm are placed together in a culture dish for fertilisation. Once fertilised, the resulting embryos are placed in the woman's uterus in the hope that a successful pregnancy will follow.2 If a woman is unable to produce her own eggs, or her partner is unable to produce viable sperm, donor eggs or sperm may be used.
The couple will undergo a series of tests to determine whether they can overcome any obstacles to fertility. If not, they may try a range of treatments that may involve hormones to stimulate egg production followed by IVF.
Fertility rates vary from year to year but the average age of women trying to conceive has been showing an upward trend in many developed countries, including Australia. The latest available statistics (2008) show:
"You know that the first sign of pregnancy is a missed period. Each month, you watch your body and examine your feelings, looking for signs of pregnancy. If your period is late, your spirits rise, often only to be dashed. You go to the toilet every five minutes, looking for (but hoping not to find) blood. You go through these cycles of emotions month after month. You begin to ask yourself what's wrong with you. You feel you have no control over your body or your life. Conception can become an obsession, and you start to feel isolated.
"It dawns on you that you might have a problem. You might try to deny it. You pretend that this is not really happening to you, maybe you haven't been trying hard enough, or maybe you've been trying "too hard". Maybe you really don't want that baby. Around you, everyone else seems to be pregnant and you can't believe how easy it is for them. You begin to feel angry with your body for letting you down." 3
Men: Male infertility can be caused by abnormalities in sperm numbers, motility (ability of the sperm to get to the egg) or morphology (structure of the sperm cell). These may be brought about by factors such as: 3,4,5
Women: Causes of female infertility commonly include: 3,4,5
How common is irregular ovulation and what treatments are available to help overcome this issue and fall pregnant? Watch the video below for information on common causes of ovulation issues.
IVF may be a solution for some people who want to start a family but have trouble doing so. The use of assisted reproductive technology has increased by 10 percent every year since 2002.6
Hormones are usually given to stimulate the ovaries and enable egg collection. For some women, these hormones (such as oestrogen) can cause breast tenderness, slight nausea, dizziness and abdominal swelling. Occasionally, too many follicles develop and a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) may occur. Although the risk is low, IVF can lead to organ damage, infection or bleeding due to the collection needle.2
In instances where IVF doesn't result in pregnancy, it's common for couples to feel emotional distress about not being able to conceive as well as discomfort while going through the hormone stimulation treatment. IVF treatment is also expensive, although part of the cost may be met through Medicare subsidies or health insurance.
For more information about IVF and assisted reproductive technology, talk to your GP, who can refer you to a specialist.
For general information on infertility causes, prevention, support and treatments there are several websites that may help:
Access Australia - Australia's national infertility network
Fertility Society of Australia
Jean Hailes Foundation - Emotional wellbeing and fertility
Sexual Health and Family Planning Australiahttp://www.shfpa.org.au/
Last published: 30 July 2011
This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.
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