What Can We Do?
If you find yourself wondering, ‘My husband and I are having trouble conceiving, what can we do?’ and it is more than a timing issue, several options exist for you to consider. Fertility drugs that increase egg production and encourage implantation and intrauterine insemination where the sperm is directly introduced into your uterus during ovulation are considered two of the less invasive and intricate processes to treat fertility problems. In vitro fertilization, also known as IVF, involves a more complicated process your physician or an IVF specialist uses to treat fertility issues. IVF is used for various reasons, and is considered to be the most effective method of assisted reproductive technology (ART).
What Is IVF?
In vitro fertilization is used by couples who use their own eggs and sperm and by couples who use one or more donors for either eggs, sperm, or both. Gestational carriers, also known as surrogate mothers, also sometimes undergo the IVF process to carry the genetic child of a couple.
During the IVF process you will most likely receive fertility drugs to increase your egg production from one to several eggs during a month. Ultrasounds will be used to monitor your ovarian progress and you will have your hormone levels checked with blood tests.
Next, you will have a minor surgical procedure known as follicular aspiration, where a needle with suction capability is inserted to retrieve the eggs, one at a time. Some women use donor eggs for these first two parts of the procedure.
Then in a highly controlled environment, sperm is introduced to the eggs and then they are stored in a secure chamber where (if everything works as planned) fertilization takes place within a few hours. Sometimes the sperm is directly injected into the eggs if there is concern that this process will not occur naturally.
When the fertilized eggs divide they become embryos which are then placed into your womb or your carrier’s womb 3-5 days after the initial harvesting and fertilization. The hope is that at least one of the embryos will implant in the lining of the uterus and result in a healthy pregnancy.
What are the Risks of IVF?
In vitro fertilization is not without risk, and it demands financial, physical, and emotional reserves, as well as a commitment to the time it takes to go through this process. Couples who experience infertility, no matter which treatment option they seek, often experience higher levels of stress and even depression than those couples who can conceive naturally. Some of the risks of which you should be aware while considering IVF include:
- Bloating, abdominal pain, headaches, and severe mood swings as a result of the fertility drugs
- A condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) where the fertility drugs cause fluid to build up in the abdomen and within the chest wall, sometimes requiring drainage with a needle
- Increased risks for internal bleeding and damage from the egg retrieval
- Multiple pregnancies can increase the risks of miscarriage, preterm labor and delivery, and low birth weight
- Financial damage as most insurance plans do not include coverage for infertility treatments
- Ectopic pregnancies, which occur in approximately 2-5% of women who undergo IVF treatment
Fertility treatments, no matter which path you take, should be carefully considered and researched before making a commitment. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider for the best option for you to build the family for which you are hoping.