All You Need to Know About… IVF

In vitro fertilisation is one of the many options available to help couples with fertility problems have a baby.

There are a range of options and techniques available for couples struggling to get pregnant, with IVF being one of the most popular. This procedure consists in a woman’s egg being removed from the womb and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. After fertilisation, the egg—then known as an embryo—is returned to the woman’s womb to develop. Visit your doctor if you’re struggling to conceive; if IVF is the right treatment for you, they will refer you to a fertility clinic or specialist where you’ll be able to discuss your options further.

IVF on the NHS

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published guidelines and recommendations on who should be eligible to receive IVF treatment on the health service. Although the organisation suggests this procedure should be offered to ‘women under the age of 43 who have been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for two years’, it is local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) who have the final decision—their criteria may be stricter. If IVF isn’t offered by your local CCG, there are other options available in the form of private care and treatment.

Talking numbers

According to the NHS, the chances of a successful conception vary largely and mostly depend on the age of the woman undergoing treatment as well as the cause of infertility. In 2010, the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in birth were: 32.2 percent for women under 35; 27.7 percent for women aged 35-37; 20.8 percent for women aged 38-39; five percent for women aged 43-44 and 1.9 percent for women aged over 44.

What are the risks?

IVF can be emotionally and physically taxing on everyone involved. As with all medical procedures, it comes with risks and side effects such as hot flushes and headaches (from the medication used during treatment), multiple births, ectopic pregnancy and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (where too many eggs develop in the ovaries). 

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