Deciding to become pregnant may be one of the most exciting decisions a couple makes. Creating a life is not always an easy task for some parents, though, considering that 1 in 6 couples experience fertility issues. Realizing that getting pregnant on your own may not be possible can be utterly devastating. However, IVF treatments, which are a widely-used form of reproductive technology, have made it possible for many types of families to have children.
In vitro fertilization (also known as IVF) is a treatment that helps with the fertilization of eggs, embryo development, and impregnation. The process entails taking medication to prepare a mother's eggs for fertilization (known as ovulation induction). Various surgical procedures follow to remove her eggs, fertilize them with semen in a lab, and then reinsert an egg into a mother's uterus (insemination).
With reproductive technology advancing all the time, more and more families are opting for this treatment. These are 10 things that are made possible because of IVF.
10 Fertility For Women Ages 30 And Up
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, age does play a factor in the success rate of fertility. There is around a 50% chance for women in their early 30s to become pregnant, 21% for women in their late 30s, 11% for women 41 to 42, and lower chances for women older than that.
These statistics can be upsetting for women who decide to have children at an older age. Regardless of what their reasons were for waiting, IVF treatments can bring up their chances of conception. Some women who have a low ovarian reserve can choose to have a natural IVF treatment that focuses on the quality of eggs, rather than quantity.
There is also a procedure called Assisted Hatching. This technique is performed by making a hole in the surrounding membrane of the uterus just before IVF treatment to help the embryo hatch and attach to the lining.
9 Becoming Pregnant With Health Conditions That Cause Infertility
There are many health conditions that can reduce a woman's chances of fertility. Fallopian tube damage or blockage, ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, genetic disorders, and previous tubal sterilization or removal are some of the health conditions that lead women to choose IVF treatment.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is another common one, which is a condition that causes a hormone imbalance, leading to irregular cycles. IVF can be successful due to the fertility medicines that come as daily injections. These injections can be administered to the mom's buttocks, lower abdomen, or upper thigh for 9 to 11 days. A fertility specialist will monitor the mother's estrogen levels and then extract eggs, at the right time, to use for the procedure.
Some couples may not know why they can't get pregnant (unexplained infertility) until they start IVF treatments. Causes of infertility can sometimes be detected once a fertilization attempt has been done in a laboratory. If this is the case, doctors can then decide what method of fertilization would be best based on the diagnosis.
8 Preserving Eggs Before Cancer Treatments
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer can kill eggs and affect future outcomes of becoming pregnant. The loss of eggs from chemotherapy can age your ovaries, resulting in early menopause. Radiation therapy to the pelvis or abdomen can destroy eggs and damage the mother's uterus, causing scarring (fibrosis).
Mothers who receive lower doses of radiation on their uterus may still become pregnant; however, it may cause the uterus to not expand with a growing fetus. This can cause mothers to be more likely to miscarriage or have premature labor.
Fertility preservation for cancer patients is done by a Reproductive Endocrinologist. Reproductive Endocrinologists can preserve unfertilized eggs, or eggs fertilized with sperm and then frozen as embryos. They can also offer egg, embryo, and ovarian tissue freezing; ovarian suppression; ovarian transposition; and alternative treatment for certain early-stage Gynecologic cancers.
7 Avoiding Low Mobility Sperm
Sometimes the cause of infertility may not always be the mom. A father can have sperm that “doesn't swim well,” caused by impaired sperm production or function. If this is the case, fertility specialists may suggest an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) if prior IVF treatments did not work.
For an ICSI, a collection of sperm is screened in a lab, and then what is considered to be “healthy sperm” is injected directly into the mother's developed eggs. Once one of the swimmers does its job and an embryo begins to develop, it is then surgically injected into the woman's uterus.
6 Same-Sex Couples Or Single Women Can Have Children
The beauty of IVF to some parents-to-be is that they can contact clinics directly instead of dealing with the stigma or homophobia of their general practitioners. With this reproductive technology, there are many ways that could work to result in the conception of a baby. Single women and lesbian couples can choose to have intrauterine insemination with donor sperm. Gay men can have their own sperm fertilized with a donor egg and then injected into a gestational carrier's uterus.
Regardless if the donation of eggs or sperm is from a family member, friend, or complete stranger, all eggs and sperm are screened for medical, psychological, genetic, or ovarian reserve issues before being used for fertilization.
5 Gestational Carriers
Gestational carriers are not only used for gay men who want to have a baby. If a woman can't carry a baby due to not having a working uterus, health conditions, or the fact that pregnancy can be dangerous for her, she can choose to use a gestational carrier.
Fertility specialists can use the mom's eggs and the father's sperm to create an embryo. Once an embryo is formed, it is then placed inside the gestational carrier's uterus. Gestational carriers will then “carry” the baby for the duration the pregnancy and birth the baby for the parents.
4 Screening For Chromosomal Abnormalities
Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) and diagnosis (PGD) can be used for couples who are concerned or know that they are carriers of chromosomal or genetic abnormalities. After 5 or 6 days of embryos developing in an incubator, a lab technician can obtain a small sample of the embryo and test for genetic diseases and the correct number of chromosomes. Whichever embryos do not contain the genetic disease will be selected to implant into the mother's uterus.
Although this procedure is not completely risk-free for assuring the fetus will not have a genetic disease, it reduces the likelihood that it could happen and is a more reliable way of ensuring the baby will not suffer from the disease.
3 Guaranteeing Optimal Conditions
In vitro fertilization technology and techniques have greatly advanced since the first IVF baby (Louise Brown) in 1972. With these advancements leading to a safe track record, women can have IVF treatments repeated when they are in optimal physiological and mental health. With fewer fertility drugs being used nowadays, the risk of a woman developing Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) has lowered. One cycle of an embryo can be transferred into her uterus, and if it is unsuccessful, the procedure can be repeated using a frozen embryo. With repeated cycles, IVF has a higher success outcome with a lower multiple births rate.
Additionally, for whatever collected embryos that aren't used up, a mother can potentially decide to give the embryos for medical research or to another couple looking to have a baby.
2 Control Over Timing
Parents who are focused on their careers, who want to be financially stable before having children, or who would like to space out their pregnancies can opt to have eggs or embryos frozen (cryopreserved) for future use. IVF can give a window to decide a time when a mother wants to be pregnant or when she wants the baby to be born.
The ability to have control over the timing of the pregnancy can also be beneficial to mothers who are receiving various health treatments, providing them with an opportunity to be in optimal health and thus reducing the likelihood of miscarriage.
1 Decreasing The Chances Of Miscarriages
There are some women who have a history of repeated miscarriages and who may find IVF treatments to be helpful. Due to some health conditions or genetic abnormalities, a mother's body may terminate the pregnancy, which is heartbreaking while attempting to have a child. IVF treatments that focus on the quality and quantity of eggs allow more chances of selecting the best eggs and sperm to be used. This additionally grants a higher likelihood of a woman having a healthier pregnancy and live birth.
Conceiving a baby can be a very stressful time on both parents, especially if there has been a history of miscarriages or infertility issues playing a factor. IVF treatments, fertility clinics, and having a Reproductive Endocrinologist can help lessen those hardships, hopefully resulting in a healthy and beautiful baby.
Sources: Planned Parenthood, Mayo Clinic, Women's Health Magazine, Create Fertility, Fertility Institute, Northern California Fertility Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, Genesis Fertility.