An Introduction To In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

  • Health
  • September 30, 2020

From choosing the right doctor to achieving the best possible results, fertility expert Dr Raelia Lew answers some of the most frequently asked questions about In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).  

IVF is an increasingly popular choice for Australians who are having trouble conceiving, with 1 in 25 births in Australia a result of IVF. Fertility specialist and reproductive endocrinologist Dr Raelia Lew has supported many women through the IVF journey, here she explains what is involved in the treatment process and shares her advice on how to improve the chances of success. 

What is IVF and how does it work?

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) means achieving fertilisation of sperm and egg outside of the human body. The world’s first IVF baby was born in 1978, and since then more than eight million babies have been born worldwide to couples experiencing infertility through the process of IVF.

How do you know if IVF is suitable for you?

The first step is to see your GP and gain a referral to see a Certification in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (CREI) qualified fertility specialist, Australia and New Zealand’s highest qualified IVF practitioners. You can find details of CREI qualified specialists on the ANZSREI website.  

Not all couples require IVF, but for those who do, seeing a qualified doctor and taking every step possible to boost male and female infertility can make your IVF journey easier and more likely to be successful. There are many tests that can be done to get to the bottom of why a couple is struggling to conceive.  

Could you take us step-by-step through the IVF process?

The first stage of IVF is to prepare and ripen eggs from a woman’s ovary, which involves injecting a complex regimen of medications. This is followed by the IVF egg collection procedure when eggs are extracted from a woman’s ovary by a skilled surgeon. Lastly, an IVF scientist combines a woman’s eggs with sperm from her partner or from a donor. 

What are the chances of getting pregnant with IVF?

It is hard to generalise, as some people are much better candidates than others. Lots of factors come into play, including age, reasons for infertility, egg and sperm number and quality, individualisation of treatment and the strength of laboratory technology. 

In a strong candidate couple with individualised specialist care in a great lab, the chances of a successful birth per embryo transfer can be as high as 50 per cent. Some older couples with serious fertility concerns will never be able to achieve a success rate of more than 5-10 per cent. An individualised comprehensive fertility assessment allows a specialist to counsel a couple about their prognosis for success overall. 

How long does it take to get pregnant with IVF?

IVF is a treatment pathway, not a single procedure. For couples who ultimately have a baby through IVF, the average length of treatment is over several months, involving several treatment cycles.  

How can Period Underwear benefit women going through IVF?

A common treatment in IVF is to provide luteal phase support through the use of supplemental progesterone therapy. Progesterone is often delivered in the form of a vaginal gel, pessary or capulet. Women familiar with this therapy know that all forms of vaginal progesterone are associated with messy discharge. It’s part of the process and many women find it better than a needle (the other way of giving extra progesterone). Period undies are great for IVF patients who otherwise need to constantly use a liner. Anything to reduce the mess and fuss of vaginal progesterone therapy is a win. 

How much does IVF cost and why?

IVF is an amazing technology and involves a huge number of people. This includes the couple, their doctor, generally a nursing team, and a laboratory team of scientists, pathologists and researchers who are constantly trying to advance the science and make the process more successful. There are a wide range of factors that determine the final cost for each individual. On average, one cycle of IVF treatment can cost around $10,000. This is before factoring in additional out-of-pocket expenses and Medicare rebates where applicable. IVF costs are not more expensive than other comparable medical processes. Unfortunately, there are many elements of IVF for which patients receive no Medicare funding, for example, genetic testing of embryos. 

What other fertility treatments are available?

Fertility is not a one-size-fits-all situation and depends on your individual circumstances and that of your partner. Surgical management of endometriosis, balancing your hormones, ovulation induction techniques, artificial intrauterine insemination cycles or flushing the fallopian tubes with imaging may assist conception. 

For women going through the process, are there any tips or insights you can share?

Advice is not just for women. It’s important to stress that just as many couples with infertility have male factor related reasons. The best advice I have is to choose a specialist you trust who works hand in hand with a strong laboratory; optimise your general health and that of your partner, ensuring the sperm and eggs used for IVF are the healthiest they can be; and don’t waste your most fertile years – we have the best chance of helping women and men who seek help at a younger age.

 

Dr. Raelia Lew is a CREI Fertility specialist, Gynaecologist and the Director of Women’s Health Melbourne, a boutique specialist gynaecology and fertility practice, caring for women at all life stages.
You can get in touch with Dr. Raelia and her team via the Women’s Health Melbourne website.
Follow her on Instagram, or learn more via her podcast, Knocked Up