Starting the IVF process can seem like an emotional rollercoaster, however, with the proper support, it doesn’t have to be! Although each person’s journey to IVF is unique, countless individuals and specialists have documented the practice itself, the result being an overwhelming amount of information on what to expect and how best to prepare for IVF.
Because of this, it will be helpful to address 10 of the most frequently asked questions surrounding IVF in one space. This enables you to enter the process with the most (and most accurate) information on what to expect.
What Exactly is IVF?
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is a process that can enable those with fertility problems to have a baby. It involves the removal of an egg from a woman’s ovaries and combining it with sperm. This process is done in vitro (meaning outside of a living organism – in this case, a lab) then returned to a womb where it can develop.
IVF does not necessarily involve both parties who will eventually parent the baby. It can be carried out with donor sperm or eggs or both, depending on the individual case.
How Do I Know if I Am a Good Candidate for IVF?
There are specific fertility problems that pair well with IVF treatment. These include blocked fallopian tubes (as IVF bypasses the tubes), women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), women with irregular ovarian cycles (countered through induced ovulation), and men with a low sperm count or irregularly shaped sperm.
Unexplained infertility could also make you a good candidate for IVF, as inexplicable difficulty becoming pregnant naturally may be remedied by artificial insemination.
How Long is the IVF Process?
While it is worth noting that each person’s IVF journey is unique, generally, from start to finish, a cycle of IVF can take between put between 2-3 weeks. This includes boosting the egg supply through superovulation, removing the eggs, collecting the sperm, fertilisation of the eggs, embryo transfer, and discovering if you are pregnant.
Are There any Lifestyle Changes to Make Before and During IVF?
The nutrition you consume plays a vital role in your fertility and later pregnancy. It is best to implement these changes at least 3 months before IVF as this is the time it takes to mature an egg. Folic acid is recommended for all women trying to conceive. Additionally, it is essential to ensure enough omega-3 (found in oily fish), Vitamin D, Zinc, Magnesium, and Iron.
On the other hand, there are things that should be avoided during IVF, including smoking, recreational drugs and steroids, alcohol, and high-intensity exercise. In most other instances, it is worth consulting with your doctor. However, the takeaway should be (almost) everything in moderation. IVF should not mean that you stop living your life; adapt accordingly.
How Long Does the Egg Retrieval Take?
Despite egg retrieval being one of the most anticipated parts of IVF, it is one of the swiftest. The process takes around 15 to 20 minutes. You will be sedated throughout, and the eggs are harvested through a needle that enters both ovaries, making the procedure minimally invasive.
Does IVF Hurt?
While the IVF process can be uncomfortable at times, there should not be any high pain levels. Going into IVF, many women’s concern is centred around the needles. They may seem intimidating, but in practice, they are tiny.
The second part that may cause anxiety is egg retrieval. Before the retrieval, you will receive an anaesthetic that will ensure its painlessness. Patients have noted mild cramping following the procedure, but usually, that passes swiftly with the help of over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen.
Like the egg retrieval, the embryo transfer takes place in an operating theatre, yet there is no need for anaesthesia. The embryo is inserted using a catheter, which may cause a slightly uncomfortable pressure, but should not cause pain.
Does IVF Increase the Likelihood of Twins/Triplets?
Depending on the quality of eggs provided by the female (which diminish rapidly as women age), it may be decided to implant a single or multiple embryos. When multiple embryos are implanted, there is an increased chance of twins.
While the prospect of not only one child after IVF but two may seem a dream come true, it comes with an increased risk of complications. Twin babies are more likely to be born prematurely, have low birth weights, and hold an increased risk of developing life-threatening complications and disabilities. Because of this, it is highly recommended that women under 40 with high-quality embryos have a single embryo transfer.
Identical twins are still possible under these circumstances if the embryo splits, but the chance is significantly reduced.
What are the Potential Side Effects and Risks of IVF?
Having IVF involves taking different medications and undergoing multiple minor medical procedures that can cause side effects. The medication taken to increase egg production causes many women to have mild side effects including restlessness, feeling irritable, hot flushes, headaches, and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) occurs in women who are sensitive to the medication, causing the ovaries to become painful and swollen. Moderate symptoms of OHSS include abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, shortness of breath, and feeling faint. However, OHSS can be more serious, in which case it can be dangerous.
You should inform your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. When undertaking IVF, you have a slightly increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (where the embryo is in the fallopian tubes rather than the womb). This can lead to vaginal bleeding and pain and can be shown in the 6-week scan following a positive pregnancy test.
How Soon After IVF Will I Know if I’m Pregnant?
It is recommended that after the embryo transfer, you should wait 2 weeks before taking a pregnancy test. This waiting period is understandably very difficult for patients.
We offer various support channels for patients undergoing IVF. If you do have a positive pregnancy test, ultrasound scans will occur in the following weeks to assess the progression of the pregnancy. If you sadly do not become pregnant after the two-week period, you may be able to try again in the future.
If I Don’t Become Pregnant, How Long Should I Wait Before Trying Again?
Discovering you haven’t become pregnant is heart-breaking, and you should give yourself time to process this before starting another IVF cycle. It is recommended that there should be at least one full menstrual cycle between treatments to allow your body to recover, giving you time to talk to your doctor about why the IVF may have been unsuccessful and assess your options going forward.
Although there is normally pressure to act fast when it comes to IVF, this is the point of your journey when you should slow down and truly process before jumping into the second cycle of IVF to understand if you could potentially face this level of upset again.
Things to Take Away
While IVF can be understandably stressful, feeling informed when starting can help you enjoy the process. This is an incredibly exciting time that offers the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your loved ones and has the potential of bringing you a child.