IVF has been nothing less than a revolution in the care of couples with infertility.
Since the first IVF baby was born in 1978, over 5 million IVF babies have been born worldwide, and currently up to 3% of all Australian births are following IVF treatment – every school classroom is likely to have an IVF baby! This alone is a testament to its success and safety. Of course there are always concerns regarding safety for both mothers and children, and Australia is one of the most regulated IVF countries in the world. Indeed, Australia has always been one of the leading countries in IVF research and practice.
Some important issues to weigh up when considering IVF:
you should always consider alternatives which may be just as successful, cheaper, or more suitable for you. For example ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination, laparoscopy.
IVF can be used for just about any fertility problem. But accurate diagnosis may alter the preparation/ approach/ protocol/ drug doses and may therefore lead to better success rates.
There are standard IVF protocols, but your specialist should always look to individualise your treatment.
A diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility’ may be very frustrating, but it is not uncommon (10-20% of couples) and is still very successfully treated. Care and close attention to detail in investigating your problem will help to ensure that you get the best treatment.
Comparing success rates is extremely difficult, as many factors influence them such as age (female and male), cause of infertility, IVF protocol and drug doses used, methods of laboratory culture and embryo selection, number of embryos transferred, and embryo transfer techniques. For example, high pregnancy rates do not always lead to live births, or can be associated with high rates of overstimulation syndrome or multiple pregnancy.
There is obviously plenty of choice in choosing an IVF specialist and clinic. Be sure that you can be as involved as you want to be in the many choices alluded to above, that you and your specialist are ‘on the same page’ (for your specific personal, ethical and cultural concerns), and that the clinic provides a system/ location that works for you. IVF can be stressful, and clearly you should be ready and able to cope with disappointments too. And even if that happens, you should feel that you have learnt something and taken a step closer to your goal.
Dr Sacks is a clinical director of IVFAustralia.
Partnership with The Pink Elephant Support Network
At The Pink Elephants Support Network, our aim is to support, nurture and empower women who are experiencing infertility and miscarriage.
Through Pink Elephants, we want to reduce the feelings of isolation many women feel by connecting them with other women who have experienced the journey before them, and are now able to mentor others. Miscarriage and infertility may be individual journeys, but no woman should have to walk them alone. So we want every woman to have the opportunity to connect with someone who ‘gets it’. We will also run closed groups on our website that women can join for additional support in a safe and caring environment.
To find out more, please visit www.pinkelephantssupport.com