While in vitro fertilization (IVF) helps thousands of patients each year to conceive, there are still many myths and misconceptions surrounding this common fertility treatment. During the IVF process, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) specialist retrieves mature eggs from a person’s ovaries, and then an embryologist fertilizes those eggs with carefully prepared sperm in a lab. After fertilization, the REI transfers the fertilized egg, known as the embryo, into the uterus with the goal of achieving pregnancy. IVF is considered a safe and highly effective assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment option to help patients have a baby.
IVF is often used by patients experiencing infertility, as well as LGBTQ couples and single parents by choice who would like to have a biological child. Unfortunately, when people search online for information on fertility treatments, they often encounter misinformation which continues to circulate on social media and message boards.
For important health decisions, it is always best to consult an expert, so we invited Dr. Arielle Bayer, a REI at CCRM Fertility in New York, to clarify common IVF myths. Dr. Bayer is board-certified in both obstetrics and gynecology and board-eligible in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.
Myth: IVF is always successful.
Fact: While IVF is an effective fertility treatment, there is no guarantee that it will result in a live birth. The success of IVF can be impacted by a variety of factors, such as the patient’s age, weight, hormonal health, chromosomal abnormalities, and egg and sperm quality. The lab is also an important factor in IVF success. Lab quality varies from clinic to clinic, so Dr. Bayer recommends reviewing a clinic’s IVF success rates on SART.org. Procedures like preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) of embryos and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be beneficial for certain patients depending on their diagnosis. We recommend that you speak with your REI to understand how you can improve your chances of IVF success.
Myth: IVF is the only way to conceive if you are experiencing infertility.
Fact: There are numerous effective treatment options for patients struggling to conceive. Dr. Bayer shares that many patients have success with less invasive procedures, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or a timed intercourse cycle. Which treatment is right for you depends on your age, diagnoses, and fertility goals.
Myth: IVF always results in twins or multiples.
Fact: IVF, in itself, doesn’t substantially increase your risk of twins or multiples. What does increase that risk is when multiple embryos are transferred into the uterus during the IVF process. With recent advancements in technology, transferring one embryo at a time during IVF is not only effective, but it’s also safer for both the pregnant person and the baby.
Given the combination of advances in ART that improve the success rates of IVF and the documented risks of a twin pregnancy, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends that IVF protocols include elective single embryo transfer (eSET). Dr. Bayer has published research on eSET and tells us that a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal found that patients who undergo IVF are far more likely to give birth to a single healthy baby following an eSET when compared to patients who choose to have two embryos transferred. While it may be an option to transfer multiple embryos in select circumstances, we recommend talking to your REI about eSET to increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Myth: IVF treatment and medication increases your risk of cancer.
Fact: The majority of studies have shown no significant increase in cancer in individuals who have used IVF. While it is true that women diagnosed with infertility can also have baseline increased risk of cancer, this is related to genetic factors rather than fertility treatment, like IVF. Before starting any fertility testing or treatment, REIs like Dr. Bayer require patients to complete a thorough medical history assessment and be up to date with all routine health screenings such as pap smears and mammograms where age-appropriate. We recommend discussing any medical history concerns with your REI as well.
Ultimately, your medical history in combination with your fertility testing and guidance from your REI will determine which treatment plan is best to help you reach your goals. It is good to keep in mind that every person’s fertility journey is different, and one should not assume that one size fits all when it comes to treatment planning. We recommend scheduling a discussion with an REI about treatment options like IVF to help you reach your fertility goals. Here at Progyny, we provide our members with the best resources and guidance on their first steps towards their fertility journey. If you have any questions about scheduling an initial consultation with an REI, please reach out to your OBGYN or call Progyny for more information.
Article reviewed by: Dr. Arielle Bayer