Myth vs fact: a guide to IVF treatment

Myth 1: IVF has a 100% success rate and IVF can resolve all infertility issues

Fact: Not true. The success rate of IVF is about 40% in couples below the age of 35. Also, the success rate of IVF depends on factors such as age, cause of infertility, and biological and hormonal conditions.

There are many assisted reproductive procedures such as ovulation induction (OI) with medications, Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), etc. which can help childless couples conceive. IVF is just one of them. Reproductive specialist (infertility specialist) will guide patients to the right procedure for conception.

Myth 2: IVF is not safe. IVF babies are born with birth defects and malformations.

Fact: Not true. It is a safe procedure with only about 2% of patients standing the risk of becoming unwell from ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome.

The absolute risk of delivering an IVF baby with malformations is very low. It is same as in spontaneous pregnancy.

Myth 3: IVF requires admission in the hospital and bed rest during and after the IVF treatment (embryo transfer)

Fact: Not true. It is, by and large, an out-patient treatment. Only the egg-collection procedure requires day-care admission. It does not require overnight admission. There’s no need to put your life on pause after the embryo transfer. The outcomes may be better in patients without bed rest.

Myth 4: Lifestyle modifications (diet, exercise, quitting smoking/ alcohol/ substance abuse/ stress-free lifestyle) will increase the success rates of IVF.

Fact: Maybe true. Poor nutrition can have an impact on fertility. Women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30 or those who are severely underweight may have difficulties with fertility. 

Smoking or substance abuse (like marijuana etc), can dramatically affect sperm and egg quality, which can have a significant impact on fertility.

Based on research, scientists believe that stress can contribute to infertility, though it’s not necessarily a direct cause; other factors (like low sperm count and quality) could also contribute to it.

Here’s one more thing you can do to increase your odds of success: Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. A study by Korean researchers found that women who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night are more likely to have a successful IVF cycle than women who sleep more than 9 hours or less than 6 hours a night.

Myth 5: Infertility is almost always caused by problems with the female’s reproductive system.

Fact: Not true. It’s common for people to think of infertility as a female problem, but only 35% of infertility cases are caused solely by female factors. Another 35% results from factors in the male reproductive system, 20% come from both, and 10% is undetermined.

Myth 6: You have no control over the success of an IVF cycle.

Fact: Not true. The results of an IVF cycle are to a large degree based on a thorough evaluation of the couple, and there are a number of things your doctor can do before you begin to optimise success rates.

Do I have enough eggs? A good ovarian reserve is key for IVF success. Two tests can help doctors estimate how many eggs you will get: blood tests given on the second or third day of menstrual cycle can analyse the hormone levels and an ultrasound can assess (an actual antral follicle count) to determine the ovarian reserve.

Is my uterus ready? Your uterine cavity should be evaluated with an ultrasound, X-ray, or hysteroscopy to look for fibroids, scar tissue, or polyps, all of which can act like an IUD in the uterus and prevent implantation.

Are my tubes clear? Fluid in your fallopian tubes reduces IVF success rates by about 50%. If fluid is present, it’s necessary to either block the tubes or remove them prior to starting IVF.

Is my husband’s/partner’s sperm adequate? 

It is important to get the semen analysis done in a WHO-accredited lab. The quantity and quality of the partner or husband’s sperm are very important for IVF success. That way, the quality of the sperm can be compared with what is needed for IVF success.

(The writer is IVF Consultant, mfine and Director, Ovum Hospital)

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Myth vs fact: a guide to IVF treatment

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