From your chances of success to the out of pocket costs, a doctor answers all your questions about in vitro fertilisation – IVF.
While it would be magical if every time a couple decided they were ready to try to for a baby, they saw two lines on a pregnancy test after one crack at it. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for many would-be-parents. In fact, Health Direct indicates 15 in every 100 Australian couples of reproductive age experience infertility (which is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of trying).
In vitro fertilisation, or IVF, is a common avenue many couples grappling with infertility turn to to increase their chances of falling pregnant. So what exactly does it involve and how much is it going to cost you? We spoke with Genea fertility specialist, Dr Rachael Rodgers to bring you a comprehensive guide to all things IVF.
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IVF can seem daunting but we’re here to help answer your questions. Image: iStock.
First things first, what does IVF stand for?
“The term IVF refers to in vitro fertilisation. In vitro is a Latin phrase that means ‘in the glass’. The literal translation of the term IVF is therefore ‘fertilisation that takes place in glass’.”
The step-by-step IVF process
Meet with a fertility specialist
“Once you have seen your fertility specialist, and if your treatment plan includes IVF, you will then have an appointment with nurses who will explain every step of the cycle with you in detail. The usual procedure is to have you contact the nurses as soon as you get your period. The nurses will arrange for you to come into the clinic to have a set of ‘baseline’ blood tests done.”
The first step is to meet with a fertility specialist. Image: iStock.
“These tests check that you are ready to commence treatment. You will then have a hormone injection each day that you will administer. We have hormone injection pens, so they are quite simple to use. After a week of injections, you return to the clinic to have blood tests and a pelvic ultrasound. These examinations are to assess the growth of your ovarian follicles (ovarian follicles are little ovarian cysts containing an egg, we want them to grow to about 20mm each).
Usually more days of injections are required, so you come back to Genea again for a second set of blood tests and another ultrasound. If an appropriate number of follicles have grown to the required size, we give you a ‘trigger’ medication to make the eggs in the follicles mature. 36 hours after your ‘trigger’ injection, we conduct the egg collection procedure.”
Egg collection procedure
“The egg collection is a 20-minute procedure. The ovaries are imaged using a transvaginal ultrasound probe and a needle is inserted through the wall of the vagina and into each ovary so that the eggs can be collected. As soon as the eggs have been collected, they are taken straight to the laboratory where they are fertilised. Although this is a short day surgery procedure we do recommend you take the day off work. At Genea, the fertilised eggs (embryos) are monitored using time-lapse photography in our incubators. After five days, the embryos are ready for transfer.”
IVF involves the collection of eggs to be fertilised. Image: iStock.
“We transfer one embryo and freeze any additional good quality embryos. Embryo transfer is a simple procedure that usually takes five to 10 minutes. You don’t require anaesthetic for this procedure. Eleven days after embryo transfer a nurse will organise a pregnancy test.”
How much does it cost?
Thankfully, the Medicare Safety Net means you’re entitled to a rebate on some of the costs of IVF. To do this, you’ll need a referral from your GP – which is valid for one year – or gynaecologist/obstetrician – valid for three months. Be sure to speak to your doctor and IVF provider about how much the treatment will cost in total and what is covered.
To access a Medicare rebate you’ll need a referral from your GP. Image: iStock.
“IVF costs range, you’ll be approximately $1,000 to $5,000 out of pocket. It is important for patients to understand when selecting a clinic that not all clinics offer the same services,” Dr Rodgers says. “There are cheaper public units that typically have a waiting list for couples requiring IVF. These clinics do not offer a full range of fertility services, so it may be that the specific treatment you require is not available. The higher cost clinics typically offer greater convenience and flexibility of care. You can choose your fertility treatment and generally treatment can commence within weeks of your first appointment with your specialist.”
Who’s best suited to IVF?
In 2018, data compiled by UNSW’s National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit found that one in every 25 births in Australia was an IVF baby, with over 13,500 born between 2016 and 2017. While there’s no doubt IVF is growing in popularity, who exactly are the best candidates to try the fertility treatment? According to Dr Rodgers, “women under the age of about 40 with a reasonable ovarian reserve” are suitable.
A woman under 40 is more likely to have success with IVF. Image: iStock.
“Egg quality and quantity decrease with age. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have – at birth, there are approximately one million eggs in the ovaries,” Dr Rodgers says. “The number of eggs decreases with age, so that by the time a woman is around 50 years of age, there are effectively no eggs remaining. The younger a woman is, the more eggs she is likely to have in her ovaries, and the more eggs doctors can obtain at the time of her egg collection. This gives clinicians a greater chance of obtaining a good quality egg capable of sustaining a pregnancy.”
Dr Rodgers also cites PCOS, endometriosis, genetic abnormality and male issues such as a low sperm count as factors that can affect fertility.
This story originally appeared on whimn.com.au and has been republished here with permission.