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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 1980s. 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 two children herself, both conceived naturally.
There are many reasons why IVF may be recommended for you.
Artificial insemination (AI) is the name given to a procedure where sperm are placed into the female reproductive system by means other than intercourse. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the most common form of AI used. Only doctors can perform AI under the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008, although a person is not prevented from performing self-insemination.
IUI can be performed during a natural cycle or in combination with ovulation induction (OI). The procedure is done at or immediately prior to ovulation. The sperm is prepared in the lab to obtain optimal concentration and motility. The semen sample is centrifuged and washed to remove debris. Large amounts of the best performing sperm are inserted directly through the female’s cervix and into the uterus. This will provide a greater chance that sperm will make the journey to the fallopian tubes, where fertilisation takes place. This is the main benefit of the IUI treatment.
Ovulation induction is the term used to treat women who do not ovulate (release an egg from an ovary each month) by themselves or who ovulate irregularly.
The time between one period and the next is called the menstrual cycle (often referred to as a ‘cycle’). The cycle phases are controlled by the release of hormones, including Follicle Stimulating Hormone ( FSH), Luteinising Hormone (LH), oestrogen and progesterone. Each one of these hormones plays a specific role throughout the cycle.
There are many reasons why a woman may not be not be ovulating – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), stress, over-exercising, obesity, excessive weight loss, hormonal imbalances (e.g. thyroid, prolactin) or low ovarian reserve (low egg numbers).
Some women wish to obtain an assessment of their current fertility status. While it is impossible to accurately predict an individual woman’s fertility, there are some investigations and factors that are useful. The single biggest predictor of female fertility is her age. Unfortunately a female’s fertility declines as she ages, with a steep decline occurring from the mid 30s, and only very few pregnancies occurring once the woman is in her 40s.
While most women go through menopause in their 50s, 1% of women will run out of eggs before the age of 40, and will therefore struggle to conceive, even at a younger age.
Experiencing a miscarriage can be a devastating, but not uncommon, outcome to a much-wanted pregnancy. Unfortunately, around 15% of pregnancies in women under 35 years old will result in a miscarriage.
Recurrent miscarriage is defined as three miscarriages in a row, and can affect up to 1% of women. Even after a woman has had three miscarriages, there is still as greater chance of the next pregnancy continuing, than having another miscarriage.
The most common cause of miscarriage is that the pregnancy is not normal. Mostly, this is due to an abnormal chromosome pattern (too much or not enough DNA required for a healthy baby).