Are you planning to undergo IVF and want it to turn out successful the very first time? This article will help you with that.
This article is a comprehensive piece that tries to explain the treatment, which couples should opt for it, common reasons for its failure, success rates by age, and important tips for success in the first attempt.
What is IVF and How Does It Help Conceive?
Before you undergo the procedure and intend to attain a healthy pregnancy in the very first attempt, it is foremost that you first have the basic understanding of the treatment, how it works and whether you are a suitable candidate for it or not.
IVF or in-vitro fertilization is not for every infertile couple. Infertility has different types and the treatment also varies depending on the severity and whether it is concerning the female or male partner. IVF is one of the assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) that intend to assist an infertile couple’s conception by performing fertilization of the female’s egg outside her body, generally in a clinical facility. On a broader level, IVF is an ideal treatment in infertility cases concerning female infertility.
The procedure is generally classified in 6 stages: ovarian stimulation, egg collection, sperm collection, fertilization, egg incubation, and embryo transfer. The female partner is first given certain fertility drugs to stimulate her ovaries and trigger egg production. Then, those eggs are collected from her ovaries and fertilized with the intended father’s collected sperm. Once the fertilization takes place, the eggs are incubated for 5 days and eggs that make it to the blastocyst stage (day-5) are then chosen for implantation. Implantation of the selected embryo finally takes place and a hCG blood test is scheduled after 2 weeks to confirm successful pregnancy.
Sounds pretty easy and simple, isn’t it? But actually, not every infertile couple has to undergo this procedure to conceive. Depending on the type of your infertility and its severity, your IVF specialist will decide whether you should be undergoing IVF or another more optimal pregnancy treatment such as IUI, ICSI, IMSI, IVF+donor eggs, or surrogacy.
But, how exactly would you know if you are a suitable candidate for IVF?
Who is a Suitable Candidate for IVF?
You are possibly a suitable candidate for the procedure if you have:
- PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome): It is a condition when a female starts to abnormally produce an excessive amount of androgens that cause enlarged ovaries and small cysts on its outer edges.
- Endometriosis: It is a condition when tissues similar to endometrial tissues that generally develop on the uterine lining, abnormally start to develop outside of it.
- Fibroids: It is a condition when a woman’s uterus starts to have an abnormal growth of tissues that are non-tumorous and non-cancerous in the uterus.
- Blocked fallopian tubes: Fluid buildup or damage to the fallopian (uterine) tubes can prevent the fertilized egg from traveling to the uterus and affect fertility.
- Irregular ovulation: Women who experience irregular periods and ovulatory cycles due to some reason.
- Inability to produce viable eggs: As a woman ages, her ovarian response and the ability to produce good quality viable eggs decline gradually. Also, certain treatments such as cancer chemotherapy can damage a female’s eggs.
- Male-factor infertility: Sperm health is essential for fertilization. Semen fluid with high amounts of abnormal sperm having issues with their head, neck or tail may fail to fertilize the female’s egg.
- Pelvic infection: Also called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), it is an infection generally a result of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that spreads from the woman’s vagina to her ovaries, fallopian tubes and the uterus.
If you are diagnosed with any of the above conditions and you wish to have a pregnancy, IVF can turn out to be an ideal treatment. However, despite having any such condition, it is always advised that you first consult with your fertility specialist before choosing to undergo the procedure. Let your fertility doctor analyze your medical history, type and severity of your infertility, and your reproductive potential, so he or she could suggest the right approach.
Reasons for IVF Failure
Following are some common reasons when an IVF cycle may fail:
Female’s age plays a crucial role in determining the success of any pregnancy treatment. As a woman continues to age, her ovarian response and potential to produce viable eggs continues to diminish as well. Quality of the egg significantly influences its likelihood of successful fertilization.
Poor Sperm Health
About 50% of infertility cases in India are male-induced. As men age, their testosterone levels drop so does the sperm count and quality. Low sperm count and sperm abnormalities (such as abnormal head, neck or tail of sperm) significantly affect chances of successfully fertilizing the female egg during in-vitro procedures. Even if the sperm fertilizes the egg, it puts the pregnancy at a risk of early miscarriage or birth defects.
If incubated eggs that turn into embryos (blastocysts) are of poor quality and implanted during the IVF procedure can lead to failed implantation.
Poor Ovarian Response
Poor ovarian response is when the ovaries are not responding well to the fertility medicines that are given during in-vitro cycle. If the ovaries could not produce an adequate number of eggs to proceed with the procedure due to bad ovarian response, the fertility doctor might have to cancel the cycle.
Most couples who undergo IVF treatment are in their mid or late 30s and likely experiencing infertility due to poor egg and sperm health. As a couple age, the likelihood of their fertilized egg being chromosomally abnormal are quite high. Chromosomal abnormality refers to when an embryo has a missing, extra or irregular chromosome. Chromosomal issues in embryos can lead to failed implantations or early miscarriages.
Autoimmune disease is when your immune system starts to mistakenly target and damage healthy cells in your body considering them the invading cells. In cases of women with autoimmune diseases, the embryo can fail to implant as the immune system damages the transferred embryo considering it an invader.
Implantation difficulties can occur if the endometrial lining is too thin, due to a uterine infection, due to an early spike in progesterone, due to uterine cysts and more.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding certain negatively affecting habits is necessary to ensure good chances of conception with IVF. Women who smoke, drink alcohol and take recreational drugs are found to be at about 60% higher risk of unsuccessful pregnancy than those who do not. Also, maintaining a good body weight is necessary to keep certain hormones in balance.
IVF Success Rates by Age
IVF success rates (the rate of healthy live-birth per cycle) strongly depends on the age of the female undergoing the procedure. Usually, as the female gets older, her fertility also declines gradually and so the rates of IVF success.
- For women in their 20s: Their chance of having a healthy pregnancy is about 70-80%. Women in their 20s are at her peak reproductive years with very low chances of having any infertility problem.
- For women in their 30s: Their chance of having a healthy pregnancy is about 50-60%. In their early 30s, women are very likely to conceive successfully with a little medical help. But as they get in their mid to late 30s, certain fertility complications start to occur that affect their chances of pregnancy.
- For women in their 40s: Women who seek IVF or any other treatment for pregnancy in their 40s have a success rate of as low as 20%. It is because the women in their 40s are very close to menopause, have a very poor ovarian response and egg quality, and likely to have certain infertility problems.
First Time IVF Success Tips
However, having a successful IVF cycle in the very first attempt depends on several factors we already discussed above. Taking care of a few other things can also ensure better chances.
Find a Good Fertility Doctor
The foremost thing to make certain before undergoing treatments such as IVF is to always find a good fertility doctor. Always choose a fertility doctor who specializes in IVF, has treated a good number of couples, and has a significantly good overall success rate.
Get a Good Diet
Your body requires extra nutrients to sustain the pregnancy. By eating a good nutritious diet and avoiding bad processed and fried foods, you help your body maintain certain hormones and ensure good quality eggs for fertilization.
Get in Shape
Being overweight or underweight is associated with higher risk of miscarriages and implantation failures. Obesity also triggers hormonal imbalances and impacts egg quality. Try to get a little active and maintain a healthy BMI.
Do Take Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are especially formulated nutritional supplements for women who are planning to get pregnant, are pregnant, and have just given birth. It is possible that you could not get enough nutrients from the food you eat. In such a case, supplementing your diet with prenatal vitamins ensures that you fulfill your body’s nutritional requirement.
Get Rid of Unhealthy Substances
Multiple studies have confirmed that smoking, drinking alcohol and caffeine and taking unhealthy substances such as recreational drugs also affects a woman’s pregnancy potential. Similarly in men, such substances are found to affect sperm quality, count and motility.
Mental Health is Essential
When you are stressed, you release a hormone called cortisol (the stress hormone). This hormone in multiple case studies have been found to also trigger hormonal imbalances and impact egg quality in women. Males also have a similar negative effect on their hormones and sperm health.
The Bottom Line
IVF is surely one of the best assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and it has benefitted countless infertility couples worldwide. If you are also planning to undergo the procedure and start your family, you are good to go. But before you do, always ensure a few things beforehand: what the treatment is and how it works, whether you are a suitable couple for the treatment, common reasons that can lead to failure, your chances of successful pregnancy in the first attempt, and some tips for better chances.
This article tried to explain all that. One last suggestion, do find a good fertility specialist. IVF is a time-taking, costly and complicated procedure. Choosing the right person is very important for a smooth and unchallenging journey.