Geeta Nargund Fertility Specialist

There are many reasons you or someone you know may consider IVF treatment to have children. If it’s something you’re thinking about, or are curious about, read on. We welcome back Professor Geeta Nargund, Medical Director of CREATE Fertility and abc IVF, who talks through the role IVF can play, the different options of IVF treatment and the importance of building a support network when going through this journey.

IVF treatment has progressed considerably over recent years and fulfilled dreams of happy families for millions of patients globally. Whilst an essential treatment for many, IVF journeys can be more difficult for some than others, and not everyone is aware of the emotional and physical burden of treatment that may arise. When deciding whether IVF treatment is right for you, there are several factors that should be considered to determine what your IVF journey might look like.

Fertility health

The average age of first-time mothers has been increasing since the 1970s. Whilst many women are making informed and empowered decisions, now that women have a more cemented place in the world of work and societal attitudes towards female empowerment have changed, some may not be fully aware of the impact of age on their fertility. A woman’s fertility can start to decline rapidly from mid-thirties. Natural conception rate is around 20% per cycle at the age of 30 and around 5% per cycle by the time a woman is 40. In other words, a woman’s fertility drops to 1/5 by the time a woman is in her mid-40s of what it was when she was in her mid-30s. If you are considering having a baby, whether naturally or via IVF treatment, it is important to understand that your chances of success are greater when you are younger and your eggs are of higher quality.

As such, if you plan to have a family in the future, but aren’t ready just yet, egg freezing may be an option to consider, as better-quality eggs can be frozen and stored

until you are ready to use them in treatment when the time is right for you. This is maybe an option to consider when you are younger.

Of course, there are other factors aside from age that may mean couples have trouble conceiving naturally, and fertility tests are an important first step to gauging what fertility issues a couple may have and what type of treatment would suit them best.

A fertility test will often include an ultrasound scan and blood test to assess your egg reserve and womb lining and whether there are any structural reasons affecting your chances of natural conception. Depending on the outcome of your fertility test, your doctor may be able to offer some advice on how to optimise your fertility and help you to conceive naturally. However, if your test shows you require fertility treatment, your doctor will be able to identify which kind of treatment will be best for you.

Whilst infertility is often seen as a ‘woman’s issue’, on average around 50% of infertility cases can be due to male factor infertility. Male fertility should also be tested early on, and if it is a factor then options such as ICSI, artificial insemination or donor sperm are available.

IVF options

When considering IVF, you may also want to consider what type of treatment is best for you. The medication used in fertility treatment which stimulates egg maturation can result in side effects for some women, particularly if they have polycystic ovaries or high egg reserve, there is a higher risk of ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome. To reduce the physical and emotional burden of treatment, you might want to consider mild IVF.

Mild IVF uses lower dosages of drugs for a shorter period of time, compared to conventional IVF. The aim of mild IVF is to maximise quality and not quantity when it comes to eggs and embryos without compromising success rate.

Natural IVF, also known as Natural Cycle IVF, is conducted within a woman’s own natural cycle, and is aimed at collecting a naturally selected egg or eggs. No stimulation drugs have been used in natural cycle IVF. It is particularly helpful for women with low egg reserve where there is no added benefit of using stimulation drugs. Natural modified IVF is also a form of natural IVF where drugs are given for 3-4 days with an aim to reduce the risk of spontaneous ovulation and increase your success. If you have a low egg reserve, or are older, this may be one of your treatment options. 

In conventional IVF, the medication can last up to 3-4 weeks and generally, the dose of stimulation drugs is higher. The latest scientific evidence shows that mild IVF is equally successful, while reducing side effects and cost of treatment.

The right kind of support

Although for many IVF offers hope of being able to have a child, the process can be long and arduous, emotionally as well as physically. The best attitude to approach IVF treatment with is to expect the unexpected. Sadly, although success rates have hugely improved since the treatment was first invented, neither time, money or emotional will can guarantee results. IVF is not a silver bullet solution, and it is important that as a couple, or a single mother to be, you establish a support network that will be there for you throughout treatment.

Some may wish to carry out treatment in private, whilst others may wish to share their highs and lows with those around them. Whichever the case may be, it is important to maintain open communication within your couple, or with those who are supporting you, through what can be a trying period. You can also access an independent counsellor during the treatment.

In addition, it is always a good idea to educate yourself before beginning treatment, so that you know what you might expect. For example, when choosing a clinic, it is important to understand their process, as well as any additional costs that may be incurred. This may help to allay any nasty shocks further down the line. You may also want to attend any free webinars that clinics provide, such as at CREATE Fertility, to find out more information about the treatment process.

Whilst going through treatment, you should take time to check in on the reality of your situation. Both physical and mental health are important to consider and it might be that time in between rounds of treatment are necessary to maintain balance between your life and the strains of IVF treatment.

IVF is an essential and life changing treatment for many. When considering whether IVF is the right option for you, it is important to remember that you are not alone. 1 in 7 couples experience fertility issues and there are always people to speak to about treatment. If you have questions about your fertility health and treatment options, don’t hesitate to contact your GP or a clinic.

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