It’s only been 40 years since the birth of Louise Brown, the very first human to be born following conception by In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). In that relatively short period of time, the individual herself has become a mother of two healthy children and what seemed then to be a miracle of futuristic science has moved on to become part of everyday life, albeit one involving highly specialised skills and techniques which are always evolving. Not only has the science behind IVF developed and expanded during those years, but social attitudes to assisted reproduction of all kinds have also evolved.
These days IVF is one of those subjects we all think we know something about, picked up from an article or a friend of a friend… But how much do you really know, and can you differentiate the facts about In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment from the urban myths? In this article we take a look at the IVF definition, what exactly happens in the IVF process, the facts about multiple births and some of the other hot topics around the subject: IVF success rates, and how much does IVF cost.
IVF definition: what exactly is it?
In a nutshell, an IVF definition refers to the process of putting together the ovum and the spermatozoon in the laboratory – that is in vitro – in order to obtain fertilised embryos for transfer to the patient’s uterus. This process was originally, and sometimes still is, carried out using the conventional IVF process, which involves placing an oocyte surrounded by spermatozoa in a culture plate and allowing the two to combine so that conception can take place.
This option is recommended for patients for whom previous simpler treatments such as artificial insemination have failed; for women with various problems with their fallopian tubes; and for women suffering from advanced endometriosis. It is also recommended when a limited number of oocytes is available and in cases of severe male infertility. Where severe male factor infertility is involved, a refinement of IVF that may be recommended is a technique called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). This development has extended the standard IVF definition. This is a process whereby the best spermatozoa are selected from a semen sample or if necessary via testicular biopsy. The selected sperm is then injected directly into the ovum to increase the likelihood of conception taking place.
For a step-by-step explanation of how the IVF process works, you may find the IVI YouTube video at IVI/In Vitro Fertilisation a helpful exposition.
What is involved in the IVF process?
In all our IVI clinics, if IVF is the recommended treatment in an individual case of infertility, the process is as follows:
It starts with ovarian stimulation consisting of the administration of daily injections which cause the ovaries, instead of producing a single ovum which is what they do naturally each month, to produce more oocytes so that a larger number of embryos can be obtained. Ultrasound scans are undertaken during the process to check that the follicles are developing. When the follicles have reached an adequate size and a suitable number of oocytes is present, a hormone injection causes the follicles to mature as they would in a natural cycle. 36 hours later, follicular puncture, in which the follicles are retrieved, takes place.
The ova are then fertilised either with conventional IVF or by means of ICSI. The resulting embryos are observed in the laboratory, the most viable selected, and inserted into the patient’s uterus in a quick and painless procedure. After this, the remaining good quality embryos are vitrified so that if necessary they can be used in a later cycle without the need for further ovarian stimulation.
At this point, we should address the myth that frozen embryo transfers are not as successful as ‘fresh’ embryos. The truth is that frozen embryo transfer is just as successful as using fresh embryos for IVF, and we at IVI have conducted studies that have proven this. The vitrification process prevents the formation of damaging ice crystals, and 97% of embryos survive the process. The other advantage of using cryopreservation is that frozen eggs will be younger and therefore more likely to reach their full potential than any new eggs collected.
What are the facts about IVF treatment and multiple births?
It is true that in the early years of IVF, it was more likely that IVF treatment could result in twins. This is because in traditional IVF procedures, double embryo transfer was commonly practised in order to increase the chances of pregnancy. The result was that, while only 3% of naturally conceived pregnancies result in the birth of twins, among pregnancies assisted by reproduction treatments the figure could be as high as 33%.
For some people finally achieving a much longed-for pregnancy, this could seem like a bonus, but it can also pose risks for mothers and babies during and after pregnancy. For this reason, the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) advised fertility clinics to decrease the rate of twins through IVF by focusing on single rather than double embryo transfer. A recent study has revealed that, when carried out correctly, one embryo transfer (or single embryo transfer, SET) is just as successful.
In January 2018, the HFEA announced that the initiative had led to success in reducing multiple birth rates to just over 10% of all IVF births, and that this had been achieved without a reduction in birth or pregnancy rates.
What are the IVF success rates?
IVF success rates vary according to the age of the woman being treated, the underlying cause of the infertility and sometimes according to the country in which the treatment is carried out. Authorities in Europe and the US estimate average success rates of between 29% and 43% for women under 35 and between 15% and 27% for women aged 38 to 40.
However, these estimates represent a snapshot in time, and in fact IVF methods and success rates are constantly improving. As a result of the work of our clinics worldwide, IVI is one of the fertility clinic networks with the most successful pregnancy rates. Nine out of ten couples that consult IVI due to problems with infertility and who put their trust in us reach their goal and see their dream of becoming parents come true. The ongoing research and development work of our professionals and the incorporation of all the latest technologies enable us to improve our pregnancy rates every year.
Our audited clinical results show an IVF success rate of 54.22% at the first attempt, rising to 87.08% at the third attempt. When you take into account different assisted reproduction techniques and include egg donation pregnancy rates, our statistics show a success rate of between 68.81% at the first attempt, and 96.88% at the third attempt.
We would encourage you to have a look at our website for yourself, and study the most up-to-date information about the particular issues and questions that interest you the most, as well as the details of our clinical results. You can also learn about our record of success in assisted reproduction techniques from our YouTube video about IVI.
How much does IVF cost?
Again, the question how much does IVF cost has different answers according to several factors, but you can check our starting prices here. It is often thought that IVF and other fertility treatments are only an option for the very wealthy. However, this isn’t the case and IVI offers high quality, technologically-advanced treatments at a reasonable price in order to help as many people as possible see their dream of parenthood come true.
We at IVI have also introduced the new concept of the IVI Baby guarantee. We have introduced this with the aim of offering patients peace of mind and the certainty that they will reach their objective. IVI Baby offers an answer to the fears and uncertainty that individuals understandably feel when they set out on the journey of assisted reproduction. IVI Baby is the promise and guarantee that your dream of having a baby will come true. With this plan, you will have your newborn baby or your money back, because we are committed to seeing the process through to the birth of your baby, not just achieving pregnancy.
If you would like to know more about the IVI Baby guarantee or if any other matter covered in our article has raised questions in your mind, why not contact us for your first appointment at IVI? Each year around 5,000 couples from 80 countries visit our clinics in search of a top-quality treatment in reproductive medicine and these days, 90% of couples find a solution to their problem thanks to assisted reproduction. This means that infertility is nigh on reversible. Perhaps you feel ready to start your journey with us? When the time is right for you, you can get in touch through our IVI online contact form and a specialist will get back to you. Alternatively, you can always give us a call on 08 000 850 035 or +34 960 451 185.