IVF – What to Expect
Sometimes, when we want to conceive it takes a little longer than we were expecting. Sometimes we need a bit of help to conceive and sometimes we need a lot of help. The good news is there are techniques that will help us, using reflexology, acupuncture, nutrition, and western medicine.
There are different medical ways to help a couple conceive, called assisted conception techniques, or similar. They include IVF (in-vitro fertilisation), ICSI (intra cytoplasmic sperm injection), IUI (intra uterine insemination), some of which you will have heard of and some you may not. Assisted conception techniques can be full of technical jargon, and the aim of this post is to go into a bit of detail about what happens if you choose to have IVF treatment.
IVF stands for in-vitro fertilisation. So what will happen? IVF involves six main stages:
- stopping your cycle
- stimulating egg supply
- checking progress
- egg collection
- fertilising the eggs
- embryo transfer
- Stopping your cycle. To stop your natural menstrual cycle you will be given a nasal spray or an injection that contains a hormone. You will sniff or inject this once a day for about two weeks. This will suppress your cycle and make the next stage of your treatment more effective
- Increasing egg supply. The next stage will boost the production of eggs in your ovaries. You will inject a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) once a day for about 10-12 days. FSH encourages the ovaries to develop lots of follicles so that more eggs may be collected.
- Checking progress. You will have vaginal ultrasound scans to monitor your ovaries and see how the follicles are developing. You will have a hormone injection about 34-38 hours before your eggs are collected. This will help the eggs to mature.
- Egg collection. The eggs are collected using a needle that is passed through the vaginal wall. You will be sedated and the procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Some women have some vaginal bleeding or cramps after this procedure.
- Fertilising the eggs. The sperm is prepared and mixed with the eggs, and then checked to see if fertilisation has occurred. The fertilised eggs are called embryos, and will continue to grow for up to six days before they are transferred into the uterus. You will be given hormones to help prepare the lining of the uterus for implantation. This is usually a pessary (placed inside the vagina), a gel or an injection.
- Embryo transfer. A few days after the eggs are collected and fertilised the embryo is transferred into the uterus. A thin tube is used to place the embryo in the uterus. This is less invasive than egg collection, and is similar to having a cervical screening test.
The number of embryos to be transferred will vary, depending on your age, usually one or two embryos. If there are other suitable embryos they may be frozen for future IVF treatments.
The next stage can be the hardest for some couples. You will be advised to wait for two weeks before doing a pregnancy test. Some clinics suggest carrying out a normal urine pregnancy test at home, and others may do a blood test at the clinic.
If you have a positive result you will have an ultrasound scan to check the pregnancy is progressing well. After that time you will be offered the normal antenatal care offered to all pregnant women.
Will it work?
In 2010 the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was:
- 32.2% for women under 35
- 27.7% for women aged 35-37
- 20.8% for women aged 38-39
- 13.6% for women aged 40-42
- 5% for women aged 43-44
- 1.9% for women aged over 44
You can get further help by having acupuncture treatments before and during the IVF process. The follicle develops over the two weeks before ovulation, but this process starts months in advance as it gradually matures in the ovary. Acupuncture can help increase the number and quality of the eggs that will be collected during IVF, which may mean more eggs will become fertilised. It is recommended that you start acupuncture three months before your IVF procedure.
There is research to show acupuncture can
- increase blood flow to the reproductive organs
- increase egg production and improve oocyte quality
- regulate hormones
- promote embryo implantation
- reduce stress
Further information is available on the British Acupuncture Council website www.acupuncture.org.uk go to Research, Fact Sheets.
If you would like to know more about how acupuncture can help you during your IVF treatment please get in touch.
By Imogen Hall, Dip Ac, MBAcC