In vitro fertilisation (IVF) has now become a phrase in such common use that it is rare for anyone to talk about ‘test tube babies’ any more. Babies born as a result of in vitro fertilisation are born after being fertilised outside the mother’s body. In vitro means literally ‘in glass’ but most IVF cycles take place in laboratory-grade plastic these days.
This is the most commonly performed infertility treatment in the world. It can help the hundreds of thousands of couples worldwide who are unable to conceive naturally. Reasons for infertility vary, but IVF can help couples with both male and female infertility issues:
Procedures differ both between different countries, where regulations may not be the same, and between fertility clinics in the same country. There are also several types of in vitro fertilisation that may increase success rates.
The entire in vitro fertilisation cycle takes about 25 days to complete, and it usually commences on the third day of a natural period. It involves:
A pregnancy test carried out about two weeks after embryo or blastocyst transfer reveals whether the cycle of in vitro fertilisation has been successful.
Success rates have been increasing and may be a little higher if techniques such as blastocyst transfer or assisted hatching are used. Typically, though, the main factor that impacts on the success of in vitro fertilisation is the age of the female partner. If she is under 35, each cycle of in vitro fertilisation has a 32.3 % chance of achieving pregnancy. This declines to 27.2 % if she is between 35 and 37, to 19.2 % if she is a year older, between 38 and 39, and goes down to 1.5 % in women who are 45 or more.
If you have one failed cycle, then you can try again after waiting for a month or so; the deciding factor in how many cycles of in vitro fertilisation most couples can have is the financial cost. For couples in countries where the cost of private infertility treatment is high, many consider the options available in fertility clinics abroad, where the cost of an IVF cycle can be much lower.
Sadly, some couples go through the trauma of many failed cycles, spending all their savings, only to find that they are still unable to have a child. In this case, other options such as fostering, adoption or surrogacy may become important.
By the time you embark on your first cycle of in vitro fertilisation you may well have been trying for a baby for several years, and you may already have had other infertility treatments. By this stage, couples can become quite obsessed with the need to get pregnant, and this can lead to relationship strain and isolation. It is important to understand the risks of in vitro fertilisation, such as the potential for a multiple pregnancy, and to realise what the success rate statistics mean. Having in vitro fertilisation can never be stress-free, but it helps to have a realistic and flexible perspective.