An important fact patients suffering from infertility should know is that you are not alone. Infertility affects about 12% of women in the U.S., Don’t be afraid to seek help because finding care in a timely manner can ultimately help you to live your dream of having a baby.
CCRM recommends any woman under 35 and trying to conceive for one year without success, or any woman over 35 and unsuccessful after six months, to start evaluation for causes of infertility. The difference in timeline is because the single biggest factor affecting prognosis for successful fertility is a woman’s age. Chances of conceiving a child with your own eggs decreases with advancing age due to decline in egg quantity and quality.
While many patients struggling with infertility will get pregnant successfully with simple strategies such as oral fertility medications, intrauterine insemination (IUI) or surgery, others will require a little more assistance with in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to conceive. Some of the common reasons a couple may require IVF include tubal factor (e.g. blocked or surgically absent tubes), male factor (very low sperm), peritoneal factor (like endometriosis or pelvic adhesions distorting anatomy) or failure of other treatments. However, some patients also choose to undergo IVF so that they can have genetic testing on the embryos to prevent passing on a gene mutation to their child(ren).
Understanding the IVF process
Prior to starting IVF, it is important to understand the process fully. There are many myths out there regarding IVF, and there is no “one size fits all” approach. We use different methods and medication doses for different patients based on their particular medical characteristics. At CCRM, we are very detailed with our pre-IVF evaluation so that we can tailor the best treatment strategy for each patient.
Success rates will also differ for each patient based on their age and cause of infertility. Being educated about your anticipated odds of conception and going into treatment with a realistic expectation helps patients handle the ups and downs of treatment better.
Patients also need a thorough understanding of the time involvement for an IVF cycle. Multiple visits to the clinic are required for monitoring sonogram, blood tests and pre-cycle testing to ensure the best outcome. If someone has a very stressful work schedule and is unable to make their appointments, then it is best to postpone IVF to a time when the patient can have flexibility, is not in a high-stress environment, and can be readily available for their appointments as needed.
IVF can also be a significant financial commitment due to the high cost of advanced laboratory techniques that make it possible for couples to conceive. Knowing the costs involved, insurance coverage and financing options, as well as discounted medication programs, can help couples navigate the financial burdens of treatment and better prepare.
The IVF laboratory is one on the most important considerations when choosing the clinic you plan to undergo IVF with. Not all clinics have the same systems or quality measures in place. I am very proud to say that at CCRM, our IVF laboratories are led by world renowned experts in fertility, and utilize the most cutting-edge technology in the field, which is reflected in our excellent success rates.
Preparing your body for IVF
Being in good health and following healthy dietary and lifestyle strategies is also important for optimizing your chances of success with IVF. Negative lifestyle factors such a smoking, high alcohol consumption, drug use and poor nutrition are all associated with low chances of successful conception. Obesity can also have a negative impact on pregnancy rates. CCRM recommends clean eating, regular exercise, antioxidant supplements and avoidance of artificial sweeteners and highly processed foods.
Wellness habits such as regular yoga can also help manage stress levels, allow you to take some time for yourself and focus on your own wellbeing during the process and after. It is also very important to have other health issues, like thyroid dysfunction, diabetes or hypertension, in good control so that the IVF process is not only smooth but the pregnancy outcome is also improved.
There is a lot of information on the internet and social media about IVF. However, not all of it is accurate and not all will be applicable to you. It is critical to be able to discuss your concerns/questions with your physician and have trust that they will do their best for you.
Dr. Rinku Mehta is board certified a board certified reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM Dallas-Fort Worth.