Everything You Need To Know About IVF Before Opting For It

IVF or in vitro fertilisation is a process by which the eggs or the oocytes of the woman are fertilised by the sperm of male partner outside the human body in a laboratory. Though it is commonly called as test tube baby the eggs are actually fertilised in a small dish. In nature, this process  of fertilisation  takes place in the fallopian tube of the woman. This is called in vivo fertilisation.  After fertilisation an embryo is formed which  grows for 4 days in the fallopian tube and then it is transported by the fallopian tube into the uterus or the womb where it  grows into full term baby in 9 months time. In IVF this process happens in a small dish outside the human body and the embryo or embryos are transferred directly into the womb or the uterus thus bypassing the fallopian tube. Its important to know that not all embryos grow into a child. Some stop developing at an early stage and the pregnancy does not continue and this is one of the major reasons why multiple embryos are transferred into the uterus in the process of IVF.

When the fallopian tube is damaged it cannot perform its function. Fallopian tube repair surgeries do not work very well as the internal lining of the tube has tiny brush like structures called cilia which transport the embryo into the uterus are damaged and these cannot be repaired well. Indeed the first IVF babies in the world and in India – both baby girls; were born to mothers who had damaged fallopian tubes who had failed other options of treatment.

The first thing to check before starting the IVF process is if this is the right treatment for you.  A woman is born with 2 fallopian tubes and if one is functioning then it is possible to get pregnant with simpler options like an intrauterine insemination. The other common indications for IVF are some medical conditions like endometriosis stage 3 and stage 4 where there are cysts in the ovaries due to blood collecting inside the ovaries. Around 20 percent of women suffer from a  condition called polycystic ovaries where the male hormone rises in the woman’s body leading to a defect in egg production. In this condition if the preliminary treatments like ovulation induction fail then IVF is the best option forward.

Now a days we are seeing a rise in the number of women in the age group of 21 to 25 who are unable to conceive for multiple reasons who need IVF. Some women with premature ageing of the oocytes or a severe reduction in the ovarian reserve may need to opt for banked/ donated eggs. These women will also need IVF to get pregnant.

In around 30 percent of couples who cannot conceive the woman is perfectly healthy but it is the male partner who has a reduction in the sperm count or reduced mobility of the sperm or high numbers of abnormal sperm. The usual cut off value is less than one million healthy motile sperm below which IVF or ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) is the best option.

While the first IVF baby of the world was born in a “natural” ovulation cycle after 32 failed attempts – currently IVF protocols world wide use hormonal injections to make the process less cumbersome and more predictable and much more successful. You should be aware that these hormones can cause side effects like headache, nausea, vomiting and in severe cases a condition called as Ovarian. Hyperstimulation syndrome or OHSS. In this conditions water/ fluid can accumulate inside the abdomen or lungs and in severe cases need treatment in the ICU. Thankfully such cases are rare now a days. No long term side effects  like cancer etc has been associated with the use of these hormones. Multiple studies done in various countries of the world where the entire female population who underwent IVF was studied have  corroborated this as of now.

Although it is reffered to as IVF many times the actual procedure done in the laboratory is ICSI not IVF . ICSI means injection of sperm into the egg and it is done to improve the success rates and fertilisation rates. Critics have argued that in some of these cases the more natural IVF where nature selects the best sperm may be better so always check with your doctor if they are doing IVF or ICSI and why.

Another common question is about diet . Although various fertility foods have been described none if so significant that it can make the process a success nor does pineapple or papaya cause an abortion – yet of you have some concerns your doctor may let you avoid them. High protein diet with egg white dals, lean meats like chicken etc are good as they can reduce the complications due to the hormones. Drink lot of fluids as the hormones can cause dehydration. Take 5 portions of fresh fruits and vegetables with fibre in a day so as to avoid constipation which again is a common side effect of the hormone progesterone.

Should you take bed rest after the IVF? Many women have a feeling of guilt of the IVF fails that it could be due to this one sudden jerky movement while travelling etc but these are all myths Internationally the accepted norms are that bed rest is absolutely not required in the 2 week wait period after the IVF while you wait for the pregnancy test results. It causes stress anxiety back ache headaches and does not improve outcomes. It may cause the vaginal progesterone tablets to accumulate in a mass which may not get absorbed properly; some prominent studies published have even shown a deleterious effect of bed rest on the treatment.

Sometime adjuvants like some immune medication or baby aspirin or blood thinners are given after the IVF. This may be indicated In some cases to improve success rates so always check in with your doctor if you need adjuvants. Some adjuvant IVF procedures like laser hatching and embryo glue are available now and you can check with your doctor if this is applicable to your individual situation.

Time off work; usually 2 to 3 of days leave is required for the actual day of  the IVF procedures like the egg collection and the embryo transfer and a rest day in between Abstinence from Sex: this is not advised except for the 2 days before the IVF procedure ; your doctor will discuss this with you Restriction of activities: it is advisable to avoid hectic activities like going to the gym or aerobic exercises when you are under treatment as the ovaries are usually bigger and may lead to bleeding internally.

No restriction of routine activities in required. In fact I remember a case in England where I did embryo transfer and later in the day I saw the lady with make up reading the news on the BBC! ( in the morning she came without make up for the transfer – which reminds me that you should avoid wearing any perfumes or de - odourant sprays  on the day of the procedure of IVF as this will release some volatile organic compounds which can be harmful for the embryos).
IVF is an advancement of modern technology with the human genome project complete doctors are now able to genetically even test the embryo before it is put inside the womb and if you have failed IVF treatments you can discuss this with your doctor.

Most reputable clinics have a counsellor affiliated who can give you emotional support as you navigate this path so feel free to ask and undertake a session – you may benefit significantly as this is quiet an emotional roller coaster.

IVF has brought over 5 million smiles over the world and we hope you get your bundle of joy soon
Please feel free to E mail for any queries or clarifications if required at drshivanisachdev@gmail.com; we respond promptly to queries; you can also find us in Facebook or Twitter . Read more about Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour.