IVF is a big step and there is so much information out there that separating the where, what, when, whys, and how’s can be confusing. There are plenty of resources out there dedicated to everything IVF, but they can feel overwhelming.
Also, while we fertility specialists do our best to explain things in plain English, there are still so many science/medical/acronym based terms that make a reader’s head spin.
7 Quick and Handy IVF Facts
To that end, we wanted to create a quick and handy list of relevant IVF facts you might not know – or may have misunderstood.
1. The age of your eggs matters
You already know advanced maternal age (35+) impacts fertility. The older you get, the fewer eggs you have and egg quality begins to decline. That said, many women still think IVF is the magic solution; you create an embryo, you transfer it into the uterus, and voila! You get pregnant. In fact, that’s not the case at all.
Pay attention to “live birth rates” (more on that next) when reviewing IVF success rates, and you’ll see a sharp decline from women in their 20s with infertility factors, verus women in their later 30s and 40s, even without infertility factors.
This is one of the reasons we recommend older women consider the use of a donor egg if they’ve undergone multiple failed IVF cycles using their own.
2. Pregnancy rates are not the same as live birth rates
The better you are at reading IVF success rates for prospective IVF centers the better choice you will make when choosing the best fertility center for you. One of the first things to note is that “pregnancy rates” and “live birth rates” are two separate columns, and the figures are never the same.
While getting pregnant via IVF is a good indicator of your ability to conceive and carry a full-term baby, it’s not a guarantee of a successful, full-term pregnancy. Pregnancy loss is common along the IVF journey, and miscarriages lead to the very-common-story of multiple IVF cycles. We recommend speaking to fertility centers about their live birth rates for couples in the same age/infertility factor bracket to glean more relevant information for your situation.
3. IVF cycles are much longer than menstrual cycles
Initially, IVF cycles can seem complicated in terms of steps, but simple in terms of duration. You know you’ll have to take intense fertility medications, they may make you crazy for a while, but it’s all synced to your menstrual cycle anyway – so how long can a month really be, right?
Actually, there are multiple steps involved before and after the cycle syncing dates, which means the average IVF cycle takes about four- to six-weeks from the start of a single cycle to determine whether or not viable embryos were created. It takes another four to six weeks to sync your cycle again to transfer the embryos; then, there’s the infamous two-week wait to find out whether it worked.
That’s an average of almost three months per IVF cycle from start to finish, and most couples need repeat cycles before they’re successful.
4. It will probably take multiple IVF rounds (at least 3…)
When we review all of the data, it takes an average of about three IVF cycles to get pregnant. That doesn’t sound so bad at first. However, a little further digging shows that of the women who go through three IVF cycles, only about 34% to 43% of them have a baby. Additional studies show that IVF success rates can go up between the third and fifth cycles, but plateau after five cycles.
This is important to know because it shows that you may need to think outside the box (Using donor eggs? Donor sperm? Donor embryo? Gestational carrier?) to ensure you don’t run yourself ragged by fixating on traditional IVF. Your fertility specialist will have suggestions as to which alternative methods make the most sense based on your diagnosis and fertility history.
5. You may need IVF even if you conceived at home in the past
Many couples who conceive a child easily at home the first time around are shocked when they can’t get pregnant again – month after month, and even after a year or more. This is referred to as secondary infertility, and RESOLVE states that secondary infertility accounts for about 30% of infertility diagnoses.
This is why it’s so important to contact your OB or ask for a referral to a fertility specialist if you have trouble getting pregnant after 12 consecutive months of trying. If you’re 35+, seek professional support after six months to err on the safe side; get help after 3 months if you’re 38+.
6. It takes its toll on your mental and emotional health
While there are couples who come in, are diagnosed, and get pregnant via IVF in the first round – they are an anomaly. Most couples have to undergo that previously mentioned three IVF rounds or more. The process takes its toll on mental and emotional health, and infertility/fertility treatments also take their toll on relationships.
Do yourself, your partner, and your relationships(s) a major favor by lining up infertility support ahead of time. From a finding a therapist specializing in infertility (highly recommended) to finding an online or in person support group (also highly recommended) and reading the amazing array of infertility blogs out there, you will benefit from giving yourself the support you deserve.
7. Partners suffer too
It’s assumed that the woman undergoing IVF does all the suffering, and her partner does all the supporting. Far too unnoticed – and unaddressed – is that the husbands, wives, co-parents and/or partners suffer right along with her. Our advice to those supporting anyone going through IVF is stated above. Find the support you need; find safe spaces to share, rather than hide, your emotional struggles, and do all you can to keep your romance alive in the meantime.
The doctors and staff at the Northern California Fertility Medical Center are dedicated to making the IVF journey as clear and transparent as possible. We are always willing to go outside the box to help our client’s fertility dreams come true. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you through all the IVF facts you know – along with the ones you don’t. We’re here for you!