When you are trying to get pregnant but things do not seem to work out, fertility treatment may be your only option to getting pregnant. However, the process can be intimidating if you don’t have an idea of how to go about it. Deciding to do IVF (in vitro fertilization) is nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. On one end, this process takes you closer to getting pregnant while on the other, it can be a stressful period for you. In order to be prepared for IVF, here is what you will need to know.
What are the Basics of IVF?
As mentioned earlier, IVF stands for in vitro fertilization. This treatment procedure usually involves using the eggs of the female and putting them in a dish that contains sperm cells. If the process is successful, the retrieved eggs will be fertilized to become embryos. One or two healthy embryos are then selected and transferred to a woman’s uterus.
In some situations, assisted fertilization may be required. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection can be utilized with an assisted technology that involves the injection of a sperm cell into an egg. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is usually necessary if past IVF cycles did not work or in cases of severe infertility in a male. However, before egg retrieval can be done, the ovaries need to be stimulated. In the absence of fertility drugs, the body may mature a single egg every month. In the case of IVF, you’ll need so many eggs. Injectable fertility drugs can be used for stimulating the ovaries so they can mature lots of eggs for retrieval.
The Costs and Risk of Side Effects
A single IVF cycle can cost upward of £9,000. A lot of insurance firms do not cover this treatment procedure since only a few states require insurance providers to cover the process. Despite that, some insurance companies may offer different fertility benefits such as the coverage for lab work and ultrasounds. Additionally, some fertility centres work hand in hand with lenders to give different options for financing the process. Some pharmaceuticals can offer discounts on their products while medical practitioners can sometimes offer a free sample. There are also numerous programs out there that offer free IVF cycles or financial assistance. Fertility clinic cost should not be a discouraging factor as there are different ways to make IVF relatively affordable.
During the process, you will be pumped a lot of hormones, so you can expect to be full of emotions during the IVF cycle. Other minor side effects like cramping or bloating in the pelvic region, discomfort, pressure, and breast tenderness from fertility injections may be experienced. In some cases, you may experience ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which takes place when the drugs you took cause the production of too many eggs. Symptoms of this side effect can be weight gain, dizziness, nausea, severe pain or swelling, shortness of breath, and vomiting. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is usually self-limiting but you will need to contact your physician immediately if you experience the above symptoms.
During the initial process, the ovaries are stimulated through the use of medication for the production of eggs. The dosage and medication needed for the induction process are specific and subjective to every patient. In the phase of the IVF cycle, medication may be used to help the eggs mature, prevent premature ovulation and prepare the uterus lining. However, it should be noted that progression to the retrieval stage may be cancelled due to inadequate developing follicles. Other reasons for the cancellation may include premature ovulation, too many developing follicles (can result in ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome) among other medical complications.
After the eggs have matured and before ovulation can take place, they are retrieved. Numerous eggs can be retrieved at the same time. After retrieval is complete, the mature eggs are incubated, and when they identified to be healthy, they’ll be mixed with the sperm to enable fertilization.
This phase of the IVF cycle involves the provision of a sperm. Retrieval can be done through testicular aspiration or masturbation. After the sperm has been collected, separation from the semen is done in preparation for the next step in the in vitro fertilization cycle.
In this phase of the IVF cycle, both the egg and sperm are introduced, and if fertilization is successful, an embryo will be produced. In the attempt fertilization, two primary techniques are used: insemination, a process involving the introduction and incubation of the healthy egg and sperm together; and, intracytoplasmic sperm injection where healthy sperm is directly injected into the egg. The intracytoplasmic sperm injection is used to assist in the fertilization process when there is a low quantity or quality of semen.
After successful fertilization, one or two embryos may be available for transfer into the uterus. The transfer process into the uterus is done using a syringe and the catheter. Once there is successful implantation of the embryo to the uterus lining, impregnation occurs.
On or after the retrieval day, and before the embryo can be transferred, you will need to start taking progesterone supplements. Often, during the IVF treatment, progesterone is administered as an intramuscular self-injection. In other cases, supplementation of progesterone can be taken as a vaginal gel, pills, or vaginal suppository.
After the progesterone has been administered, nothing much takes place for about two weeks. You also need to know that the two weeks following the transfer may be difficult emotionally compared to the weeks of treatment. You’ll notice that in the steps prior to the transfer, you were too busy visiting your doctor all the time but after the transfer is complete, there will be a drop in activity. At this point, you may have so many questions, especially concerning the two—week wait period. To avoid getting overly stressed, you’ll need to keep yourself busy and avoid thinking about the possibility of the treatment failing as this will only make you worry more.
Pregnancy Test and Follow-Up
In approximately nine days after the transfer has happened, a pregnancy test is done. In most cases, this is a serum pregnancy test and will also include the testing of progesterone levels. Your doctor may choose to repeat these tests every few days in order to ascertain the results. If the test is positive, you’ll be advised to continue taking the progesterone supplementation for some more weeks. In addition to that, your personal doctor will follow up with ultrasounds and blood work to monitor the progress of the pregnancy and watch for signs of ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages.
Possible In Vitro Fertilization Pregnancy Risks
Once the pregnancy has been determined, your doctor will keep a close watch to determine whether multiple pregnancies were realized in the process. The risk of multiple pregnancies is often higher with in vitro fertilization, and a multiple pregnancy poses a greater risk for the mother as well as the babies. Some of the risks that could be experienced include maternal haemorrhage, premature labour, and delivery, high blood pressure induced by pregnancy, C-section delivery, and gestational diabetes. In the case of a high-order pregnancy, the doctor may suggest a procedure known as multifetal pregnancy reduction that will help in reducing the number of fetuses. This procedure is sometimes recommended to increase the likelihood of having a healthy, successful pregnancy.
It should also be noted that women who conceive through in vitro fertilization are likely to experience spotting during the early phase of their pregnancy although this may resolve without any complications. The rate or risk of miscarriage is just about the same for those who conceive through the natural process. For women in their twenties, the miscarriage rate is low as fifteen per cent while this rate may be over fifty per cent for women above forty years of age. With IVF, the risk of ectopic pregnancy is about two to four per cent, which generally means that ectopic pregnancy cases are extremely low. If you happen to develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome from taking fertility drugs, recovery may take time if you get pregnant.
When IVF is not successful
In case the pregnancy test is negative after twelve to fourteen days post-transfer, you’ll be asked by your doctor to stop taking progesterone and wait for your period to begin. What you will do next from here will depend on what you, your partner, and doctor decide. If this was your first cycle, the doctor may recommend another cycle because the chances of success are after attempting several cycles.
Fertility treatment is usually an emotional process. When you decide to go through this process, you will need to prepare yourself psychologically. There are successes and failures in the IVF cycles, but the important thing is to never give up. Do not allow your emotions to prevent you from having that child you have always desired. Make sure you seek advice from your doctor throughout the process and follow their guidance to the latter.