IVF was originally developed for women who had blocked or damaged fallopian tubes to help them become pregnant. Because IVF involves taking eggs directly from the ovaries, fertilising them outside the body and then putting embryos back into the womb, it completely bypasses the fallopian tubes.
Today, IVF is used for lots of female fertility problems including difficulties with ovulation, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. IVF can also be used for male fertility problems.
Do you need IVF?
You may know soon after you start having fertility tests that you will need IVF if you are going to have a baby. Or, it may unclear as to what you should do particularly where no cause has been found for your fertility problems.
When you’re going through the initial phase of testing things can seem to take a long time, with weeks or even months between appointments. You may start to think that you are spending most of your time waiting.
But once you get to the next stage it can seem as if you are thrown straight into IVF without having had time to think about it properly and decide whether IVF is something you really want or need.
Other treatments to try before IVF
If you have any concerns about IVF you may want to reassure yourself that you are sure you have tried other alternative options first. There are some other treatments that might be offered to you before IVF, but these treatments may not always be appropriate for everyone. The type of treatment suggested for you will depend on the nature of your fertility problem.
1. Drug treatments may be offered to you if you have hormonal problems. Drugs can help regulate your menstrual cycle and ovulation. Drugs are sometimes (but not always), prescribed where there is a male-factor problem to try to improve the sperm count.
2. Laparoscopic ovarian drilling may be suggested to you if you have polycystic ovaries. This procedure involves making small holes in the surface of the ovaries. In some women this can help trigger ovulation.
3. Surgery may be an option if you have tubal problems, although IVF tends to be a more successful way of becoming pregnant if this is the case. Surgery may also be used to remove fibroids or any scar tissue from your womb and may help with some male-factor problems.
If you or your partner have been sterilised in the past to prevent pregnancy surgeons can try to reverse the operation. But trying to re-join the female fallopian tubes, or to mend the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis once they’ve been cut or blocked is a delicate surgical process and it may not always be successful.
4. Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, may be attempted before IVF, because it is a cheaper and less invasive treatment. IUI is a form of artificial insemination, where sperm are inserted into your womb around the time of ovulation and fertilisation takes place inside your body.
Sometimes, IUI may be carried out during your natural cycle, which means you won’t need to take any drugs at all. You will be monitored to check when you are about to ovulate to identify the right time for the sperm to be transferred. If there are any problems with ovulation, or if a few natural cycle treatments haven’t worked, doctors may suggest using drugs to stimulate your ovaries and this is known as a stimulated cycle. Close monitoring is very important in stimulated cycles to make sure that your ovaries don’t produce too many eggs, which could lead to a multiple pregnancy.
Your partner produces a semen sample by masturbation. Then the best-quality sperm are filtered out and put into a thin tube, which is inserted into your vagina and passed through the neck of your womb. The sperm are then injected directly into your womb.
IUI tends to be less successful than IVF as it is a simple treatment. Because of this some couples may feel it is a waste of time and choose to go straight to IVF. IVF is more expensive and invasive, but it does allow doctors to see how the eggs and sperm work together because they monitor fertilisation in the laboratory.
But not everyone wants to rush straight to IVF, and you may feel that you would prefer to give everything else a go first. Your decision may be influenced by your fertility problem, your age and your financial situation. This is something to discuss with your doctor to decide when would be the right time for you to undergo IVF.
It is very common for couples with fertility problems to use complementary therapies and there are many couples who feel that complementary therapies have played an important role in helping them to become pregnant. Complementary therapies are helpful for infertility when they are used alongside conventional medicine in a truly complementary rather than in an alternative manner.
Making healthy diet and lifestyle choices will improve your chances of becoming pregnant. If you are very overweight, if you smoke or drink alcohol, if you are stressed or exposed to environmental toxins then looking at how you can make changes to boost your health and fertility naturally is a good first step to make prior to starting any treatment.
This is from my program ‘Everything you need to know before starting IVF/ART’.
You can become pregnant. Work with me and let’s get you healthy, fertile and ready for conception and pregnancy.
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