In vitro fertilisation, commonly known as IVF, is one of several techniques available to help people with fertility problems have a baby.
But how much do you really know about this fascinating fertility treatment? Here are five IVF and fertility facts you may find interesting…
- IVF means “fertilisation in glass”
In vitro fertilisation is a process of fertilisation where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body, in vitro – meaning ‘in glass’. The egg and sperm are fertilised in a glass, or more commonly now, plastic, petri dish outside the body before the embryo is transferred back into the woman’s uterus.
- One in seven couples have problems getting pregnant
It is estimated that one in seven couples in Britain trying for a child have difficulty conceiving. Around about 30% of infertility cases are attributed to female factors and 30% to male factors. 20% are due to combined male and female factors and 20% of cases remain unexplained.
- Men are affected by a biological clock too
Scientists say they have found evidence that men, as well as women, have biological clocks and that they start to tick in their mid-30s. A French study looked into various couples having fertility treatment and their research suggested that the chance of a successful pregnancy falls when the male is aged over 35 and is significantly lower if he is over 40. Most studies, however, suggest that the fall in male fertility is a much slower process and it does not suffer from the absolute end point women have with their menopause.
- Success rates can be misleading
Success rates are not measured by individual circumstances and so can give misleading results about different clinics. It is also important to look carefully at exactly what is being measured by each clinic, as there are a surprisingly large number of different ways of calculating success rates, each of them perfectly valid in their own right. The UK regulator, the HFEA , analyses results from all UK clinics and they advise that once individual clinic’s selection criteria are eliminated, all clinics are “broadly all as good as each other”.
- IVF add-ons may not be evidence based
Add-ons are optional extras that clinics may offer on top of a normal fertility treatment, such as IVF. These are often an expensive extra that people who are seeking fertility treatment have read about or find hard to turn down. However, it is important to be aware that many of these additional fertility treatments may not work and in some cases can harm your chances of having a baby.
The fertility regulator has developed a traffic light rating system with “red” meaning “no evidence to show that it is effective and safe” and they have issued red ratings to treatments such as assisted hatching, reproductive immunology, IMSI, PICSI, and PGS in certain cases.