You’ve been having trouble conceiving. Your heart sinks when, after some routine tests, your doctor utters those three letters.
You may know someone who has undergone IVF, or read about it in the news. It sounds hard, and it sounds like it might not work at all. What are the odds of getting pregnant with IVF?
1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK struggle with fertility issues – but it’s not something that’s often talked about outside the doctor’s office. Far from being a shameful secret, though, assisted conception techniques such as IVF are designed to make it easier to conceive a baby. A better understanding of success rates and how IVF works can demystify the process for you.
What Is IVF and How Does It Work?
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a common medical technique that can help a woman or couple conceive a baby. Many women opt for IVF because ovulation is unreliable due to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, or because their male partner has a low sperm count. One in 4 couples have unexplained infertility where not cause is found, in such cases IVF is also recommended.
There are six main stages of IVF:
- Treatment starts with two weeks of medication to suppress your menstrual cycle in order to harvest enough eggs.
- You receive fertility hormone injections for 12 days to encourage your ovaries into preparing more eggs than usual.
- Ultrasound scans monitor the progress of your ripening eggs. 38 hours before your eggs are harvested, you receive a hormone injection to ensure the eggs are mature.
- Egg collection under anaesthetic sedation: mature eggs are selected from your ovaries using a hollow needle fed through your vagina and uterus. Cramping, soreness and a little bleeding are normal afterwards. After you receive medication to stimulate your uterus lining into thickening, ready for an embryo transfer.
- Your eggs are combined with sperm from your partner or donor in the lab. After 16-20 hours they are checked for signs of fertilisation. Any embryos are placed in the lab incubator for up to six days. The embryologist checks each embryo and selects the best for transfer.
- You have an Embryo Transfer (ET), where ultrasound helps the doctor or nurse insert the embryo or embryos into your womb using a fine tube. The procedure is normally painless.
After the embryo transfer, you need to wait two weeks before you can take a pregnancy test.
The IVF process can be physically and mentally draining, at BCRM we offer a free counselling service.
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant with IVF?
Your chances of success with IVF treatment can often depend on your individual circumstances, such as your age, number of viable eggs, and the reason for your infertility.
So we treat every patient individually, and aim to optimise your chances of getting pregnant in a certain amount of time. It may also suit you to take a break between IVF cycles as it can be hard – both physically, emotionally and financially.
With the above in mind, research indicates that more than one cycle of IVF increases your chances of becoming pregnant – and the NHS NICE guidelines recommend that women under the age of 42 should be offered three cycles. Individualised success rates can be estimated using calculators such as: https://www.sartcorsonline.com/Predictor/Patient
At BCRM, we’re pleased to report that our success rates are consistently higher than the UK average, the highest in the South West & Wales and one of the highest in the UK.
Pregnancy rate per treatment cycle (Jan 19-Dec 19)
|Woman’s age||National Average||BCRM|
Birth per embryo transferred (Jan 18 – Dec 18)
|Woman’s age||National Average||BCRM|
We feel our success rates reflect our commitment to state of the art techniques, individualised treatment delivered by a team including world renowned experts.
We also offer a Multi-cycle IVF packages for your peace of mind.
How Can I Increase My Chances with IVF?
At BCRM we recommend a number of lifestyle changes in order to provide an optimum number of eggs and chance of embryo implantation. These are health adjustments that are suggested to all women trying to conceive.
- Stopping smoking. Smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke can cause infertility in women and harm sperm count in men. For the best chance of IVF working for you, it’s crucial that your home becomes smoke-free.
- Losing weight if necessary. Women who are overweight may have a harder time conceiving.
- Moderate exercise may improve your chances of conceiving – just be careful not to overtrain. Physical exercise increases endorphins, which can help boost your mood during the process of IVF.
- Stopping drinking alcohol. Alcohol exposure can not only be risky for a developing embryo, but it can interfere with the production of hormones crucial for triggering ovulation in women, and degrade sperm in men.
- Taking folic acid. Folic acid isn’t only for use in pregnancy, it can be taken during IVF treatments to improve your chances of conception.
- Resting where possible. IVF can be a tough process, so it’s crucial to factor in as much relaxation and “you-time” as possible.
- Managing your stress. We provide a counselling service, but it’s also a good idea to learn some techniques to manage stress, as infertility can contribute to stress – and it can quickly become overwhelming on top of everyday concerns.
Of course, doing everything ‘right’ is no guarantee that IVF can be successful for you immediately, but by maximising your chances and following these directions you may be able to start treatment with a positive mindset, and a body ready for pregnancy.
IVF Treatments at the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine
At BCRM we pride ourselves on our friendly approach and expertise in everything related to reproductive health. Our IVF success rates are consistently higher than the UK average and we handle all aspects of your care – from tests, scans, and counselling, through to fertilisation, treatment, and implantation. Our care has helped many women and couples conceive, and we’d be honoured to accompany you on your journey to parenthood.