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In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the best treatment for certain kinds of fertility problems. However, it can be demanding and doesn't always result in pregnancy.

If you’re interested in fertility treatments, or if you’re about to start a course of IVF, knowing what to expect can make IVF easier to manage. It is best to fully find out about the treatment before you start.

1. What is IVF?
When a couple conceives naturally, sperm from the man and the egg from the woman meet in the woman’s fallopian tubes. These are the tubes that join the ovaries to the uterus (womb). One sperm penetrates the egg and fertilises it.

IVF is the process of fertilisation that happens outside the woman’s body. A woman’s eggs are surgically removed and fertilised in a laboratory using sperm that has been given as a sperm sample. The fertilised egg (embryo) is surgically implanted into the woman’s womb. This totally differs from when a couple conceives naturally.

2. Who is IVF for?
IVF is the best treatment to deal with a range of fertility problems. These include:

  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes

Problems with the fallopian tubes can prevent eggs released by the ovaries from reaching the uterus. In IVF, eggs are taken from the ovary, fertilised and implanted straight into the uterus (womb).

  • Low sperm count or poor sperm movement

Problems with sperm quality or sperm count can prevent sperm reaching the egg or fertilising the egg in the fallopian tube. In IVF, a sperm sample is provided by the male partner and, in a laboratory, mixed with eggs taken from the female partner.

  • Unexplained infertility

No cause can be found for about one in five cases of infertility. Couples or women with unexplained infertility who haven't had success with other fertility treatments may have success with IVF.

3. What to expect of IVF treatment
IVF does not always result in pregnancy.

In Nigeria currently has about 10,000 children born through the IVF process. In the UK, around 20-25% of IVF treatment cycles result in a birth. Studies have shown that younger women have a higher chance of success. Success rates decrease dramatically in women over 40.

IVF can be a physically and emotionally demanding process. Some men and women have mental health or emotional problems such as anxiety or depression during or after IVF. IVF will make big demands on your time, body and emotions.

Clare Brown, chief executive of Infertility Network UK, which helps people living with fertility problems, says: “IVF is such a long treatment, and it's often stressful. One cycle can go on for seven weeks, and you’ll be in and out of the fertility clinic. “People having IVF can become depressed or anxious. Fertility problems can come to dominate your life with your partner, so it may be hard to switch off from the stress.”

Anyone that wants to go through IVF or undergoing this process should be offered counselling to help with the emotional impact of the process and its results.
IVF risks

There are health risks involved in IVF treatment. These include:

  • Multiple pregnancy

There is an increased chance of multiple pregnancy with IVF. Multiple pregnancy has health risks for both the mother and children as twins or triplets are more likely to be born prematurely and to be underweight at birth.

  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)

Drugs used to stimulate the ovaries during IVF can lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). In OHSS, the ovaries enlarge and become painful, causing abdominal discomfort. More severe cases can lead to shortness of breath, fluid retention in the abdominal cavity and formation of blood clots. In these cases, you may need a stay in hospital.

  • Infection

When eggs are removed from the woman, a fine needle is passed through the vagina and into the ovaries. There is a risk of introducing infection into the body, though antibiotics and surgical hygiene ensure that this rarely occurs.

NOTE: Couples who want to conceive through IVF have to make sure that their lifestyle is as healthy as possible before they seek help for infertility. That means stopping smoking, cutting down on drinking and losing excess weight.


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