IVF or ‘in-vitro’ treatment means ‘in glass’, which is where the term ‘test tube baby’ originates. However, no test tubes are actually involved in the process. It seems deceptively simple to mix sperm and eggs together until the eggs are fertilised, but it requires closely controlled laboratory conditions and skilled embryologists to maintain. Once the eggs are fertilised, the embryos are then carefully incubated and the best candidates are selected for transfer into the womb a few days later. The remaining embryos can be frozen at this point.
IVF treatment encompasses a number of procedures referred to as the ‘treatment cycle’.
All IVF treatments begin with hormone therapy to stimulate the ovaries to develop more follicles than usual. These hormone injections are self-administered with very shallow injections, and the cycle is monitored by the doctor to ensure that ovulation is triggered at the right time.
Ovulation is triggered with another hormone, called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). The eggs are then collected and fertilised. Egg collection is relatively quick and painless, and general anaesthetic is not normally required.
Once the resulting embryos have grown and developed in-vitro, under the supervision of the embryologist, the best 1-2 are transferred into the uterus through the vagina. Ideally, the embryo then implants to become a pregnancy, but this does not happen in all cases. That is why surplus embryos are frozen so that another transfer can be attempted without having to complete the hormone therapy again.
In some instances, the transfer may be left a few days later so that the embryo can reach an advanced stage of development and becomes a blastocyst. This is only offered in under certain conditions, and our usual policy is to attempt IVF with embryos.
IVF is an ongoing process for a number of weeks, and can be emotionally and physically taxing. For the best chance of success, it’s important that you are healthy before the treatment cycle begins, and that you remain healthy throughout the process.
You will need to visit the fertility clinic throughout these weeks for check ups, consultations, and treatment. During this time, it’s also extremely important that you eat well, avoid smoking/alcohol, and remain relaxed so that your body is receptive to the treatment. We can offer counselling for IVF patients to help you remain calm and understand how your body is reacting to the hormone treatments.
One of the most widely reported risks is multiple pregnancy. That is why clinics only implant 1-2 embryos at a time and freeze the remainder.
There is also a very small risk (1-2%) relating to the hormone drugs, which can cause an adverse reaction in a very small percentage of women. Ultrasound and hormone monitoring during the treatment ensure that any overreaction is monitored and dealt with before the issue develops.
We do believe that our IVF success rates are great when compared to the equivalent national average but it is important when using statistics to know exactly what they are measuring. We advise that you read through our success rates pages from beginning to end to get an idea of the different ways the statistics could be produced. Success rates vary according to age, health, and reason for infertility, so it’s important to keep healthy and ensure that your body is ready for the treatment before commencing.
We owe this success rate to our care, ongoing monitoring and holistic approach to fertility and general wellbeing.