IVF: Offering hope to those struggling to conceive

Having a baby is most couples’ dream. (Rawpixel pic)

Most couples dream of having a child of their own. While many have absolutely no problem conceiving, for some it is a physically and mentally draining endeavour.

Couples with “subfertility” need to be patient as it can take longer for them to conceive. However, without medical intervention such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, it is next to impossible for infertile couples to get pregnant spontaneously.

Fertility problems could be due to factors stemming from one partner or both, including underlying health conditions, anatomical defects, medications and certain lifestyle factors.

Struggling couples can seek help from a fertility centre. Apart from offering personalised consultation and fertility screening, these centres offer IVF treatment to help conception.

What is IVF?

IVF is a process whereby an ovum, or egg, from the mother is fertilised with a sperm cell from the father outside the body. The first IVF, or test tube baby was born more than 40 years ago in the UK.

After fertilisation has occurred, the “zygote” undergoes embryo culture for two to six days, after which it is implanted in the same or a more fertile woman’s uterus with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.

Since the first IVF procedure, which took place in 1973, an estimated five million babies worldwide have been born through the procedure.

It is worth noting that it was not until 1978 that the first IVF birth occurred in Oldham, England. Despite the successes, IVF does not always yield results.

Why IVF sometimes fails

The success of IVF relies on four important factors:

  • The age of the female partner.
  • Period of subfertility.
  • Quality and quantity of egg and sperm.
  • Condition of the womb.
There are many variables, so couples should not despair if the first treatment fails (Pixabay pic)

Failing to achieve any result despite repeated IVF treatments can be depressing and mentally exhausting for couples. But this trying time serves as an opportunity to better understand one’s body.

Beyond fertility treatment, IVF can provide information related to a couple’s response to treatment as well as the condition of the egg, sperm and embryo.

There is a saying that most things that do not come easily are the products of repeated failures. The same could be said about IVF. Couples should not give up or be disheartened if the first treatment fails.

Here are five pointers prior to undergoing treatment:

1. IVF protocols

Though it is standardised for the most part, some adjustments and personalisation are made to suit the patient’s profile. No two women are the same, so personalisation increases the success rate of IVF treatment for each patient.

2. IVF clinic

Most IVF clinics maintain high standards. The types of service, facilities and treatment experience varies from one to another.

While it is important to select a clinic with a good track record, the overall factors involved when seeking treatment at a particular centre must also be considered.

3. The eggs

The quality of the eggs plays a crucial role in determining the success of IVF treatment.

If the egg fails to achieve a certain quality, the embryo would not progress into a viable or healthy pregnancy.

To increase the egg quality, certain lifestyle changes should be made, which include weight loss if one is overweight, ramping up physical activity, dietary modification as well as taking certain medications and/or supplements.

4. The sperm

Apart from the egg, healthy, good quality sperm is needed. Therefore, the male partner should also do his part to ensure the sperm cells he produces are in optimum condition for an increased IVF success rate.

5. The uterus

The uterus is where the embryo grows into a foetus before it is delivered. It makes sense to ensure that the internal environment of the womb is conducive to support the growth of a baby for nine months.

Outside Malaysia, the services of a surrogate mother can be used but this approach is prohibited in this country due to religious restrictions.

The issue of fertility is an intimate one, shared by both partners. Taking care of each other’s health and leading a healthy lifestyle together is a crucial prerequisite to a successful IVF treatment.

This article first appeared on Hello Doktor and was medically reviewed by the Hello Doktor Medical Panel. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.