IVF is where fertilisation of the egg and sperm occur in a dish in a laboratory, not in the fallopian tube of the woman’s body. The term ‘test tube baby’ was used in the 1980’s, however, now you are more likely to hear the term ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) or IVF. In 2012-2013, over 10,000 women used ART in Victoria.
The first live birth from IVF was Louise Brown in England in July 1978. In fact, Louise Brown has now gone on to have 2 children herself, both conceived naturally.
There are many reasons why IVF may be recommended for you. Some of these include:
How do I Get Started?
In Victoria, there are several steps that must be completed prior to actually commencing IVF treatment. These steps are legislative requirements regulated by the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (Vic), and include:
The average length of time to complete these requirements is 4-6 weeks.
When your legislative requirements are complete, and you have been prescribed your personalised treatment plan, you will be given contact details to meet with your fertility nurse.
You will spend about an hour with the nurse, who will provide you with the medications and instructions about how and when these should be administered.
Many IVF medications are injections. The needle used for fertility injections is much smaller than a needle used for a blood test. Often the injections are available in pen-like devices, which are easy to administer even if you have no medical experience.
The stages of the IVF process are:
Stage 1: Ovarian stimulation and monitoring
Stage 2: Egg (Oocyte) Collection
Stage 3: Fertilisation
Stage 4: Embryo Development
STAGE 5: EMBRYO TRANSFER
STAGE 6: LUTEAL PHASE SUPPORT
STAGE 7: PREGNANCY TEST
Frozen Embryo Transfer
Coping With IVF
Starting IVF can be a very exciting time as it is another step closer to becoming parents. Naturally, you will feel hopeful about a successful outcome, however you also need to prepare yourself for a series of medications, numerous procedures and testing. Often you will experience a range of intense emotions, swinging from hope to despair to elation to disappointment. The experience and how you cope will depend on individual factors including your own personality, support networks, life experiences, your relationship with your partner, possible side effects from fertility medications, and the length and number of IVF treatments.
Initially, women may fear the actual process. However often the most difficult part of the treatment is waiting for results of the pregnancy blood test. In addition to dealing with feelings of hope, anxiety and uncertainty, your body is recovering from hormonal changes from the medications. It is important at this point, if you are struggling emotionally, to utilize your support network.
Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS) is a medical condition that can occur as a result of taking fertility injections (FSH) to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. All women undergoing ovarian stimulation during IVF treatment will experience enlargement of the ovaries (hyperstimulation). This can result in some abdominal bloating and discomfort that usually resolves after a few days.
OHSS is diagnosed when there is more significant abdominal bloating and discomfort, and is often associated with nausea and vomiting. Women may also suffer from dehydration, breathing and urinating problems.
Less than 1% of women require hospital admission to manage the effects of the OHSS. Treatment may include intravenous fluids, analgesia (pain relief), anti-emetics (anti-nausea medication), blood thinners, or drainage of fluid from the abdomen (ascitic tap).
Risk factors for OHSS include:
There are different strategies to minimise the risk of OHSS, including using lower doses of fertility injections (FSH), using a nasal spray (Synarel) trigger, or freezing all embryos (and delaying embryo transfer until the following month).
Monitoring with blood tests and ultrasounds may help identify those women at risk of OHSS. However, there will always be a very small percentage of women who develop OHSS with no obvious risk factors.
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