What are the myths around assisted reproduction?
Wednesday August 8th, 2018
As more and more people are waiting until later in life to have children, it is only normal that many will be turning to assisted reproduction in order to secure the highest chance of conceiving. There are a fair number of myths surrounding the different fertility treatments available though, and some people may be put off exploring the options available to them because of these.
At IVI, we are proud to assist many couples using the most advanced and reliable fertility treatment technologies available. Therefore, we want to debunk some of the most common myths surrounding fertility treatments, such as the health of IVF babies, the best age range to get pregnant, frozen embryo transfers and one embryo transfers, IVF success rates, and whether or not you’re more likely to have twins with IVF.
MYTH 1: “Babies conceived via fertility treatment will have more health problems”
There is sometimes a preconception that babies conceived via assisted reproduction are more likely to be underweight or born prematurely. However, this is completely untrue and the process of assisted reproduction has absolutely no repercussion on the health or size of the babies subsequently born.
In fact, it is more likely that the assisted reproduction process will have a positive impact. Thanks to preimplantation genetic screening it is possible to determine whether a couple is liable to pass any genetically inherited abnormalities on to their child. Any issues picked up may then be circumvented using donor eggs or sperm.
So what is embryo screening? This type of preimplantation genetic screening is actually carried out on fertilised eggs (otherwise known as pre-embryos) in vitro to ensure that only the best quality specimens get through to the implantation stage. The testing process has advanced significantly over the past decade, and we are now able to inspect all 23 chromosomal pairs. IVI offers preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and has a dedicated laboratory in which each case is studied on an individual basis.
Our high success rates, personalised treatment and the high qualification levels of the biologists and embryologists who work in our IVI laboratories have made the group a benchmark for this technique. In 2006, in a world first, IVI brought about the birth of a baby to a couple in which one partner was a carrier of lymphohistiocytosis, thanks to the technique of assisted reproduction with PGD.
MYTH 2: “Women’s chances of conceiving dramatically decrease after the age of 35”
Whilst it is true that, normally, women under the age of 35 have a greater natural chance of conceiving, the idea that there is some fertility cliff edge off which women fall after that age and aren’t able anymore to conceive is inaccurate.
We are often asked what the best age range to get pregnant is. In general, female fertility is at its peak between the late teens and early 20s and then it does steadily decline after that, with the mid to late 30s often a time at which this decrease can become more noted.
However, this doesn’t have to have a significant impact on your ability to get pregnant. Fertility treatments are improving all the time and options such as IVF and egg donation help many women to conceive much later in life. IVI works with women between the ages of 18 and 50 and treats each case individually to achieve the best possible results. Age is no longer the barrier it might once have been to getting pregnant. Whilst we use the distinction between being under or over 35 to mark the increase of potential difficulties, it certainly isn’t in any way a precise cut-off point after which women should expect to encounter problems. With help from our team of experts and fertility treatments, a woman can get pregnant at 40 years old and beyond.
MYTH 3: “Frozen embryo transfer isn’t as successful”
It is commonly believed that freezing may damage eggs or diminish their quality, but the truth is that frozen embryo transfer is just as successful as using fresh embryos for IVF and we have conducted studies that have proven this.
Cryopreservation is in fact a very successful way of preserving young, healthy eggs for increased chances of conception. At IVI we practice the vitrification of oocytes. The main advantage of this in contrast to traditional freezing is that ice crystals, which could damage the oocyte, do not form and around 97% of the ooctyes survive the process. The eggs are thawed carefully before implantation and then IVF treatment is carried out in the same way as it would be using fresh oocytes.
Furthermore, using vitrified oocytes means that patients do not have to go through ovarian stimulation or egg collection again for a new cycle of IVF, removing some steps from 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. This is also why we would generally encourage anyone thinking of conceiving later in life or who might have any illnesses or conditions that might affect their fertility to consider the cryopreservation of their eggs as early on as possible.
MYTH 4: “IVF success rates aren’t very high”
One of the most common and unfounded myths is that IVF success rates aren’t very high and chances of pregnancy with fertility treatments are still low. In fact, IVF success rates are significantly higher than people assume.
Over the last few years there have also been significant advances in IVF technology, and subsequently the chances of falling pregnant have greatly improved.
IVI is one of the fertility clinic networks with the best pregnancy rates: 9 out of 10 couples that consult IVI due to problems with infertility and who put their trust in us reach their goal. The ongoing work of our professionals and the incorporation of all the latest technologies enable us to improve our pregnancy rates every year.
MYTH 5: “Assisted reproduction techniques only exist for women”
Often, when people think about assisted reproduction, they presume that help is only available for women. This is not true, and IVI also offers techniques and treatments designed to help increase chances of pregnancy where the male partner has difficulties.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is an example of this. ICSI is an assisted reproduction technique included within IVF treatment. It has enabled pregnancy to be achieved successfully in couples where the man may have fertility difficulties such as low sperm motility or quality. During this process, the man provides a semen sample from which the best quality spermatozoa are selected in order to increase chances of successful fertilisation. ICSI then allows for the selected sperm to be injected directly into the ovum, facilitating fertilisation to the greatest possible extent.
Immunomagnetic cell sorting (MACS) is another technique that allows apoptotic spermatozoa – those which will die without achieving fertilisation – to be removed and the sound ones specifically selected to increase the chances of pregnancy.
MYTH 6: “You’re likely to have a multiple pregnancy with IVF”
In the past it was more likely that IVF could result in twins. This is because in traditional IVF procedures a process called double embryo transfer was commonly practised in order to increase the chances of pregnancy. This meant that, whilst only 3% of regular pregnancies result in the birth of twins, among pregnancies assisted by reproduction treatments the figure could reach 33% per cent.
Although a multiple pregnancy may seem like a desirable outcome for many people, it can also pose risks for mother and babies during and after pregnancy. For this reason, the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority advised fertility clinics to decrease the rate of twins through IVF by focusing on one embryo transfer 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.
All other healthy eggs collected will undergo cryopreservation for use in any further IVF treatments, so they do not go to waste.
MYTH 7: “IVF is really expensive”
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 reach their goal of falling pregnant.
Find out more
IVI has been offering the best assisted reproduction treatments and techniques possible for more than 28 years, since its foundation in 1990, and since then over 160,000 babies have been born with the group’s help. With over 70 clinics in 13 different countries, IVI are pioneers within the fertility sector and are at the forefront of clinical development and advancement within the field.
To find out more or discuss our assisted fertility treatments with us, simply call or use the online contact form. An IVI advisor will get in touch with no obligation on your part.