In vitro fertilisation (IVF)

What is IVF?

For many couples, conceiving naturally is not an option, and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the best chance they have of having a baby.

In IVF treatment, the sperm fertilises the egg in a laboratory, instead of in the woman’s fallopian tubes. Fertility specialists use IVF to overcome a range of fertility issues, including sperm antibodies, endometriosis, and unexplained infertility.

The IVF process

IVF treatment is undertaken in cycles. To start a cycle, you will be given instructions on how to self-administer injections of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates your ovaries so they produce more eggs. If we are able to collect a greater number of eggs, there is a higher chance they will be fertilised.

Your nurse will conduct regular blood tests and ultrasounds to help to determine the right time to collect your eggs. Then, you will have an injection of human chorionic gonatropin (hCG) to trigger ovulation, and your eggs will be collected in day surgery two days later.

Your eggs will be fertilised that same day – they are placed in a culture dish with many thousands of sperm, from a fresh sperm sample provided by your partner on the morning of collection. (If there is concern about sperm quality, fertilisation can take place with ICSI.) Fertilised embryos are allowed to mature for five days in the laboratory, to the blastocyst stage, as there is strong evidence that these embryos are more likely to implant.

The embryo is then transferred into the uterus through a very fine catheter – a procedure similar to a Pap test. If there are extra embryos, they are frozen so they can be used if you need them in the future.

Two weeks after the embryo transfer, your nurse will arrange a blood pregnancy test for you, and your results will be available that same day. Urinary pregnancy tests are not recommended for IVF patients, because the hormones used in your treatment can interfere with the reading.

Dr Iris Wang is an experienced IVF and fertility specialist. As her patient, you will be supported by an experienced team of nurses and counsellors. We all understand how important having a family is to you and will give you the highest standard of care.

Getting started with IVF

When you come for your first appointment, Iris will discuss your medical history with you, do a general physical examination, and review any previous investigations and treatments you have had. Both partners should attend this appointment – you’ll be given information, advice, and a chance to ask questions that will be useful for both of you.

You’ll need to meet again to confirm your treatment plan and sign consent forms. You should also let Iris know about any other medications you are taking, as they may interfere with your treatment.

Then, within a few days of the start of your period, you will need to arrange an orientation visit with the clinic nurses. This visit takes place around day 22 of your cycle. Your nurse will explain your treatment cycle and medications, and you will have a blood test. You’ll visit again about 12 days later for another blood test, and the nurse will let you know when to start the FSH injections. From there, you will be closely monitored with blood tests and ultrasounds, until you are ready for the hCG trigger.

For more information about the IVF process, see the IVFAustralia website.

Common queries about IVF

How successful is IVF?

IVF has given many couples the ability to have a family, where they might not have been able to otherwise. Your chance of success is very individual and depends on your age, how long you have been trying to conceive, previous children, and previous infertility treatment. Iris will develop a treatment plan that gives you the best possible chance of success for your circumstances.

Treatment for infertility is a process that can sometimes take a long time. If you are just starting out with IVF, you may have already tried other treatment options. In some cases, patients fall pregnant quickly with IVF treatment, but for many it might take a number of cycles. Try not to lose hope. The IVFAustralia network – across clinics in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart and Launceston – is responsible for more live births than any other fertility network in Australia, particularly for patients who have had failed implantation cycles elsewhere.

For more information about IVF success rates, see the IVFAustralia website.

How can I increase my chances of success with IVF?

Your chances of success with IVF depend largely on your age and your history – two things you unfortunately cannot change. However, leading a healthy lifestyle will put your body in optimum shape for conception and pregnancy. A balanced diet and regular exercise are important for both of you. Your BMI should be between 20 and 25. If you are overweight, a combined approach of diet and exercise is the safest and healthiest way to lose weight, and can significantly boost your fertility. For IVF treatment, both partners should stop smoking and drinking, and limit your caffeine intake. Recreational drugs and anabolic steroids are a big no.

Does IVF lead to premature menopause by using up more eggs in one cycle?

IVF does not lead to premature menopause. In each of your natural menstrual cycles, your body selects a crop of 10-30 primitive eggs to start the ovulation process. These eggs start to grow, but only one egg reaches the mature stage and is ovulated. An IVF cycle salvages many of the extra eggs that would have been wasted in your natural cycle, and encourages them to grow to maturity. This is how multiple mature eggs are produced with each IVF cycle. IVF does not ‘use up’ more eggs than would be used in a natural cycle.