IVF is the technique in which the egg and sperm are artificially fertilised together outside the woman’s womb in the fertility centre. The fertilised embryos are allowed to grow for a few days before being placed into the uterus.
IVF is the only fertility treatment recommended for women with irreparably damaged or blocked fallopian tubes. It is also suitable for couples with conditions like endometriosis, ovulatory dysfunction, unexplained infertility, failed SOIUI, sperm disorders and immunological problems.
As IVF requires more monitoring compared to other infertility treatments, couples need to undergo a detailed consultation with our IVF doctor before commencing treatment. This is to ensure that they have a more thorough understanding about what to expect. Any questions regarding the entire IVF process can be raised at this point. This helps to reduce patient anxiety when they realise that modern IVF treatments are now relatively stress free.
Before the IVF procedure, the couple will need to undergo various blood tests and health screenings for infectious diseases, semen analysis, ovarian reserve determination and nutritional advice.
To increase the number of eggs, daily fertility hormonal injections are given for a 10 to 12-day period. Scans and blood tests are done every few days to assess the growth of the eggs. The dose of the hormones injected may be adjusted accordingly to ensure optimal growth of the eggs.
Eggs of the desired size are collected trans-vaginally using a special needle attached to an ultrasound probe. The patient will be sedated during the retrieval process to minimise any discomfort.
At the time of the egg collection, the husband will have to produce a fresh sample of sperm. He is advised to abstain from sexual intercourse for 3 days beforehand to improve the sperm quality. The best quality sperms are selected and prepared for insemination of the eggs (fertilization). Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is used to increase the number of fertilised embryos available for embryo transfer and involves injecting a single sperm into each egg via a microneedle.
The growth of the embryos will be carefully monitored by the embryologist for the next few days. The embryologist will select the most suitable ones for the embryo transfer. A maximum of 2 embryos can be transferred into the uterus using a fine catheter. Any extra good quality embryos will be frozen and stored for future use.
The patient will be given daily hormonal support to maintain the lining of the uterus (endometrium) and to enhance the chances of the embryos implanting. A pregnancy test is then performed 14 to 17 days after the embryo transfer at our IVF clinic.
The pregnancy rates for IVF-ICSI treatments at our IVF clinic vary according to various factors such as the patients’ age (woman in particular), the quality of eggs and sperms, the duration of infertility and the general state of health of the couple amongst the other male and female infertility factors. Generally, women below the age of 35 have a higher chance of conceiving.
The success rate of IVF treatments varies depending on specific factors, with the biggest determinate being the woman’s age.
Other factors include the quality of the egg, sperm and embryo, history of past pregnancies and/or IVF cycles, as well as any other medical conditions that may be present.
Generally, women under 35 years old have a 32% to 55% chance of getting pregnant through IVF, while women over 40 will have a success rate of only 1% to 10%.
A single IVF cycle can usually produce multiple embryos, which are sufficient for two to four transfers on average. If the first transfer fails, the remaining embryos can be transferred the next time round. There is no limit to the number of IVF cycles that a couple can undergo as some couples may require more cycles in order to achieve pregnancy. Ultimately this would depend on cost and the couple’s willpower to get pregnant.
The success of IVF depends on the overall health of the patient, quality of the embryos, the skill of the IVF doctor, and a bit of luck. After the couple has been deemed eligible for IVF, the IVF surgeon will recommend several preparatory measures. These include eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, eliminating smoking and alcohol consumption, and taking prenatal supplements.