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These days, IVF (in-vitro fertilization) is typically a household word. However, not so long ago, IVF was a mystery procedure that dealt with infertility. The babies born through an in-vitro fertilization procedure were called “test-tube babies”. The first such baby to be conceived was Lousie Brown in 1978, in England.
IVF is quite an expensive and complex procedure that only about 5% of couples seek out. Since its introduction in 1981 in the U.S., 1.9% of all the babies born in the U.S. were test-tube babies. Here comes the daunting question: how successful is IVF? Read on to know the answers and more.
Are IVF and Artificial Insemination The Same?
IVF and artificial insemination are at times thought to be synonymous processes. Here’s the difference: one’s done inside the body while the other is done in a test tube. Both are methods of artificial impregnation for people who have trouble conceiving naturally. In artificial insemination, the sperm is artificially placed in the uterus and therefore the conception happens naturally. IVF involves combining the sperms and eggs outside the body in a laboratory. When the embryo(s) has developed, it is placed in the uterus.
What Does IVF Treat?
When it comes to infertility, in-vitro fertilization can be an option for couples who have been diagnosed with:
- The genetic disease of the father or the mother
- Poor egg quality
- The inability of the sperm to survive or penetrate the cervical mucus
- Antibody issues that harm the eggs or the sperms
- Problems with ovulation
- Issues with the fallopian tubes or the uterus
- Low sperm count
IVF is not considered the first step to treating infertility except when it is a case of complete tubal blockage. IVF is committed for cases where other infertility treatments do not work such as artificial insemination, surgery, and fertility drugs. Before undergoing the procedure, assess the treatment centers carefully so you know they are genuine. Be prepared to ask some queries to the staff about your situation. You could go for these questions:
- Do you participate in an egg donation program?
- How much will it cost to store embryos?
- How long does one store embryos?
- How much will the IVF cost including the cost of hormonal treatments?
- How many of the deliveries were multiple births?
- What is the live birth rate for couples undergoing IVF each year at the facility?
- What is the pregnancy rate for couples in our age group and with our infertility issues?
- What is the pregnancy ratio per embryo transfer?
What Can You Expect From IVF?
An IVF can be a straining process that involves a whole lot of blood tests and medications. We have broken down what goes on in the hospital when one opts for an IVF:
- The first step of in-vitro fertilization is the injection of hormones to help in the production of multiple eggs every month instead of just one.
- You will be then taken to test whether you are now ready for the egg retrieval process.
- Once you have been tested ready, you will be injected with medications to ripen the developing eggs so that you start ovulating.
- Eggs need to be retrieved right before they appear from the follicles inside the ovaries, so timing is the key. If the eggs are taken out too late or too early, they will not develop normally.
- You might also need to do an ultrasound or blood test to make sure the eggs are at the right stage of development. Then only they will be retrieved.
Before the egg retrieval process, the fertility clinic will let you know some instructions to be followed the night before and the day of the procedure. Most women will be prescribed pain medication, choice sedation, or full anesthesia. During the egg retrieval process, the doctor will locate the follicles inside the ovary via ultrasound and remove the eggs with the help of a hollow needle. The whole procedure takes around 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- The eggs will be mixed in a laboratory with the sperm taken from your partner or a donor right after the eggs have been retrieved. The sperm will be donated on the same day.
- The fertilized eggs will be kept under clinical observation to make sure they grow without any hindrance. You might have to wait for up to 5 days until the embryo has reached its blastocyst stage. It all, however, depends on the clinic.
- Once the embryos are ready, the doctors will transfer one or more embryos into your uterus with a flexible tube called a catheter. This is a way easier and quicker process than the retrieval of the eggs. Transferring up to 3 embryos at a time will increase the chances of pregnancy. However, remember that this could result in multiple pregnancies which increases the health risks for both your babies and you.
- After the procedure, you will be on bed rest for several hours. 4 to 6 hours later you will be discharged.
- About 2 weeks after the embryo transfer, you will have to appear for a pregnancy test.
In cases where the sperm count of your partner is very low or there is a poor movement of sperm (motility), the doctors will combine IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection. In this procedure, the sperm will be taken from the semen or right from the testicles and inserted into the egg directly. Once an embryo is cultivated in the lab, it is transferred into the uterus using the usual procedure of IVF.
The Big Question: How Successful is IVF?
What is the success rate of IVF? There are several factors to consider when calculating the rate of success of IVF including the cause of infertility. CDC compiles all assisted reproductive technologies performed in the United States including ZIFT, GIFT, and IVF for about 99% of all infertility treatments.
Whether eggs are your own or donated, whether eggs are fresh or frozen, whenever you are having an IVF done, the question “How successful is IVF?” is bound to pop up. The latest report from 2018 by CDC shows that around 50% of women between ages 35 and under had given birth after undergoing IVF. For women aged 42 and above, 3.9% of the egg transfers worked and led to birth.
Are There Other Issues With IVF?
Any embryos that you do not use in your first IVF can be:
- Frozen for later use
- Donated to other infertile couples
- Destroyed with your permission
To evaluate how successful an IVF is, a woman’s age is a major factor. Any woman under the age of 35 has a 37.6% chance of having a single baby by using her own eggs. On the other hand, a woman aged between 41 and 42 years has an 11% chance that the success rate of an IVF increases with the number of egg transfers.
What Are The Costs Incurred by IVF?
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the average cost of an IVF in the United States is from $12,000 to $17,000. This price tag might change depending on your location, the number of IVF cycles you go through, the number of medications you take, and your health insurance for the procedure.
Thoroughly investigate the insurance company’s coverage for IVF and make sure you get a written statement of the benefits they are offering. Although some states have insurance laws requiring such companies to cover at least some costs of IVF, most states do not have it. Beware of some carriers who will offer to pay for infertility drugs but will not pay for the cost of IVF or any other artificial reproductive methods.
The Bottom Line: Facts on How Successful IVF is
There are two crucial reports that couples of women about to undergo IVF can look into to find answers to the question: what is the success rate of IVF?
Center for Disease Control (CDC): From the CDC’s latest report on Fertility Clinic Success Rates released in 2017, we can infer that around 448 fertility clinics on 284,385 Assisted Reproductive Treatments (ART) cycles had,
- assisted in 1.7% of births every year in the U.S.
- 68,908 live births
- 78,052 live-born infants
- 87,535 embryo or egg banking cycles
Society for Assisted Reproductive Treatments (SART): SART is an affiliate of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and releases an annual summary report of SART-member clinic which makes up about 90% of ART clinics in the U.S. SART focuses on singleton births as they are safer for both the baby and the mother. Here’s the data:
- Live births for singletons:
- Below 35 years of age: 33.6%
- From 35 to 37 years of age: 26%
- From 38 to 40 years of age: 16.9%
- From 41 to 42 years of age: 8.5%
- Older than 42 years of age: 2.8%
- Live births for non-singletons:
- Below 35 years of age: 38.6%
- From 35 to 37 years of age: 29.5%
- From 38 to 40 years of age: 19.0%
- From 41 to 42 years of age: 9.4%
- Older than 42 years of age: 3.0%