Dr Kelly Loi of the HEALTH & FERTILITY CENTRE FOR WOMEN explains In-Vitro Fertilisation and gives tips on how to ensure you can conceive successfully.
In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) uses laboratory techniques to bring the egg and sperm together outside a woman’s body and involves several treatment stages. First the woman has to undergo hormonal injections to increase the quantity of her eggs. Then ultrasound scans and blood tests are done to assess the growth and maturity of the eggs. Once the eggs are ready, they’re retrieved with the help of a vaginal ultrasound while the woman is under anaesthesia and are fertilized with the sperm to form embryos before being transferred back into the woman’s womb several days later.
IVF is usually recommended if simpler fertility treatments were unsuccessful. Simpler procedures include ovulation induction with the help of fertility drugs and intra-uterine insemination where sperm is placed directly into the womb artifi cially.
However, IVF may be recommended earlier if the couple’s condition is more challenging. These include severe male factor infertility due to abnormal sperm count or quality or gynaecological conditions such as disease or obstruction of the fallopian tubes, and endometriosis when tissue similar to the lining of the womb is deposited outside the womb, leading to painful periods and ovarian cysts. IVF may be recommended earlier if the woman is over 40 years of age as pregnancy success rates fall markedly after that age.
During a conventional IVF procedure, processed sperm and eggs are left together in a culture dish, allowing the natural process of sperm selection and fertilization to take place. However, sometimes sperm may fail to penetrate the egg on its own. In such a case, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is used to directly inject the sperm into the egg. Occasionally, men with very low sperm count are sent for genetic testing. In the event a genetic condition is found, they may be encouraged to take genetic counselling before their partner does IVF.
Improve your chances of conception by doing the following before an IVF procedure…
Improve your health Observe a healthy diet and lifestyle together as a couple. Stop smoking and reduce your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Also start a regular exercise regime to control your weight and reduce stress. Any chronic medical conditions such as diabetes should also be under control.
Men should avoid gonadotoxic factors such as being exposed to exogenous heat from taking hot baths and being in saunas. Avoid medications which can adversely affect your sperm function and take antioxidant supplements with vitamins A, C and E to improve sperm quality.
Women should ensure they are immune to rubella because infection during pregnancy can lead to congenital birth defects. Take folic acid to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida and a do a thorough gynaecological evaluation before IVF.
Undertake procedures to ensure everything is well Treat swollen fallopian tubes, fibroids, ovarian cysts and endometriosis with laparoscopic or minimally invasive key-hole surgery. Undergo a hysteroscopy – which uses a camera-like device to assess the uterine cavity to ensure your embryos will be implanted in a healthy environment.
Dr Kelly Loi Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Health & Fertility Centre for Women is every modern woman’s partner in health, meeting all your medical needs, from fertility management, delivery, through to motherhood and beyond, using state-of-the-art facilities within a safe and comfortable environment