A Guide to the Benefits and Risks of IVF Treatment

In January 15, 2020
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Understanding the Benefits and Risks of IVF

IVF Financing from UMC - Couple Interested in IVF

A while back, we shared some basic information on in-vitro fertilization or IVF. Today, we are going to probe deeper into this popular solution to infertility with a brief guide so you can understand the benefits and risks of IVF. For many individuals, being a parent is a life-changing experience, but some illnesses and disorders make it difficult for couples to conceive and start raising their families. Thanks to biotechnological advances, we have improved in vitro fertilization (IVF) to help people on their path to parenthood.

The abundance of information available online can be confusing and overwhelming for people thinking about this procedure, especially as IVF and its supporting technologies continue to advance. To help, we’ve created this guide that outlines the benefits and risks of IVF treatment and answers your most frequently asked questions about this procedure.

What is IVF

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a form of assisted reproductive technology where mature eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. After fertilization, the eggs (now called embryos) are transferred to the uterus one at a time, starting with the embryo with the highest grade. The chances of successful conception using IVF depend on several factors, such as age, sperm quality, and the cause of infertility. Of course, IVF is ideally done with the couple’s own eggs and sperm but for those who are sterile and are unable to produce healthy eggs, donor eggs, sperm or embryos are common options. Like most medical procedures, it comes with pros and cons. Let’s explore the benefits and risks of IVF treatment below.

Advantages of IVF

IVF can increase patients’ chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Here are the top advantages of IVF.

  • High Success Rate: IVF uses advanced technology designed to increase the chances of pregnancy. It only requires one sperm cell for each egg, making successful fertilization possible even in severe male infertility cases. IVF has a higher success rate than other treatment options, and this rate is getting higher as technology continues to improve.
  • Timeline Control: IVF gives patients more control over their pregnancy journey. Through cryopreservation, eggs or embryos can be frozen and preserved for future use, allowing you to choose the specific timeline when you’re ready to be pregnant.
  • Increased Chance of Having A Healthy Baby: IVF utilizes preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) to determine the genetic viability of embryos, increasing the chances of patients having a healthy baby and safer pregnancy.

Risks Associated with IVF

While modern advances lead to increased IVF success, it is still essential to be aware of its potential risks before undergoing treatment.

  • Side Effects: Women can experience mild to severe side effects when taking medication and undergoing IVF treatment. These can include nausea, headaches, constipation, mood swings, and hot flashes. IVF can also lead to ectopic pregnancy, multiple births, and a rare complication called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
  • Emotional Stress: IVF is a multi-stage process, which means aspiring individuals and couples must wait to see if the current stage is successful before they can proceed to the next. Some stages may require repetition, which can be emotionally stressful. The time commitment required can also lead to disruption in social activities, work, and time for family.
  • Financial Strain: The cost of a single IVF treatment cycle can range from $15,000 to $30,000, depending on the patient’s individual needs. Most health insurance companies do not cover IVF in their policies. As a result, couples can find themselves financially strained due to the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Benefits and Risks of IVF

Now that we’ve reviewed the benefits and risks of IVF treatment let’s answer some of the most common questions about the topic.

An average IVF cycle can cost up to $30,000—a steep cost even for financially stable couples. Unfortunately, many insurers still do not consider IVF a medical diagnosis and, as such, do not cover expenses related to this procedure. Fortunately, aspiring IVF parents can opt for fertility financing to fund their procedure.

Companies like United Credit (UC) act as intermediaries between patients and a network of trusted partners, including experienced physicians, vendors, and competitive lenders. UC helps connect you with fertility financing for egg and sperm freezing, infertility treatment, zygote intrafallopian transfer, vasectomy, vasectomy reversal, and other related procedures.

The majority of people work full-time while undergoing fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization.

Infertility is a condition usually defined by attempting to get pregnant for more than a year without success. Infertility affects 10-15% of couples in the United States. Treating infertility can be an expensive and emotionally taxing process. 

However, advancement in assisted reproductive technology means that parenthood is in reach for more couples than ever before, with a range of treatments to increase the chances of a successful live birth. Some popular treatments include in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination.

Contact your insurance company to find out what assisted reproduction procedures are covered. Coverage varies from state to state and insurance plan to insurance plan. The best place to get started is by discussing your options with a doctor and deciding which fertility treatment has the best success rates for your situation. Reproductive medicine offers many options to couples facing infertility today.

GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer) is a slightly modified version of in vitro fertilization (IVF). With GIFT, fertilization takes place in the body rather than in a laboratory dish.

The recommendation is that the woman harvests multiple eggs to increase chances of a live birth. The number of eggs retrieved is usually 15-20. 

The embryo transfer process is dependent on the type of IVF being used. Some women who opt for natural IVF will only want to use one egg. Others using traditional IVF will use multiple eggs. Using multiple eggs increases the chances of a live birth and of multiple pregnancies.

Most clinics have an upper age limit for IVF infertility treatment using the woman’s own eggs of 42-45. Women over 40 often use an egg donor. IVF treatments with an egg donor have the highest success rate at 52% according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ectopic pregnancy is one of the risks associated with IVF. The rate of ectopic pregnancy doubles to 1-3%, and ectopic pregnancy is particularly likely for women with damaged fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancy has symptoms of abdominal or pelvic pain and light vaginal bleeding.

After the first few weeks, there is not much difference between IVF and natural pregnancy. One major difference is that typically, with natural pregnancy the woman does not know she is pregnant for the first month. With IVF, fertility treatments using injectable fertility drugs may cause similar side effect symptoms to the signs of pregnancy.

Natural cycle IVF removes a single egg created during a woman’s natural menstruation cycle. Unlike traditional IVF, it does not use fertility drugs to stimulate the production of multiple eggs. This can reduce the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. It can also mean fewer trips to the clinic, less monitoring, and overall less invasive experience. 

However, traditional IVF has a better success rate. Natural cycle, also known as mini IVF, can take multiple IVF cycles in order to produce a live birth. Traditional IVF using fertility drugs has a higher live birth rate, peaking when using eggs (donor eggs or their own eggs) at between 15-25 eggs.

Egg freezing “stops the clock” and allows a woman to have a baby when they are ready for one, whether that means being financially prepared, meeting a partner or completing another life goal. 

Another major reason for egg freezing is because the woman is planning to have a cancer-preventing treatment like prophylactic oophorectomy. The egg retrieval process for the woman’s eggs is a surgical procedure that takes about 30 minutes. Typically, it only takes a day or two to fully recover from the egg retrieval process.

IVF can cause weight gain, mostly from fluid retention, which is not permanent or health concern. The best exercise during IVF treatment is low-impact, stress-relieving exercise. High impact exercise and intense cardiovascular exercise should be avoided. Exercising over four hours per week is associated with a lower live birth rate. Every woman should discuss her unique situation and exercise concerns with her doctor. 

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