The following pages provide a more detailed explanation about IVF treatment. As previously discussed, IVF treatment is where eggs are removed from the woman and mixed with sperm in order to create embryos for transfer into the uterus.
In order to maximise the chances of success, the woman takes a number of different medications. The aim is to stimulate the ovaries to develop a number of eggs for collection. Without drugs, in a woman’s natural cycle, normally only one egg, or very occasionally two, would develop.
Stimulation of the ovaries, and monitoring of the woman’s response to treatment, is carried out on an outpatient basis and can usually be achieved with visits to the clinic every few days. This monitoring is in the form of trans-vaginal ultrasound scans and sometimes blood tests. The preparation for IVF involves daily injections for approx 11 days which most patients administer themselves.
Obtaining fertility drugs
We keep a stock of drugs in each of our units for purchase. If you who qualify for NHS funding, you may be required to pay the standard NHS prescription charge per item. For those of you who are required to purchase these drugs on a private basis, we are able to offer you a competitive rate.
Side effects of fertility drugs
All drugs can have severe side effects that may vary from patient to patient, both in their nature and severity. Many patients undergoing fertility treatment experience fluctuations in their moods and emotions, and it is difficult to know whether they are drug-related or perhaps due to the inevitable stress that accompanies treatment. Details of the individual drugs required for your treatment will be provided and discussed with you prior to commencing treatment.
Risks of fertility treatment
Like any medical and surgical treatment, assisted conception is associated with some degree of risk. Every effort is made to minimise the likelihood of any such risk, although it is important to highlight those most commonly quoted:
Current national statistics indicated that 1 in 4 of all assisted conception pregnancies result in multiple births.3 Each clinic now has a strategy for reducing the number of multiple births.
Having a multiple pregnancy should not be underestimated. The risks to the woman and fetus include an increased risk of miscarriage, an increased risk of complications such as raised blood pressure, and a higher chance of delivering prematurely.
The risk of multiple pregnancy can be removed by transferring only one embryo in IVF treatment.
Ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS)
Despite careful monitoring some women respond excessively to stimulation of the ovaries resulting in the development of a large number of follicles/ eggs, causing the ovaries to swell. This is known as ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome. It is estimated that 7% of those receiving stimulatory drugs in IVF treatment experience mild symptoms, and 1% experience severe hyper stimulation requiring intravenous fluid treatment.
Occasionally an IVF treatment may be cancelled to prevent OHSS, or the treatment may be ‘coasted’, that is, waiting a couple of days for the risk time to pass and then completing the IVF cycle. This is not always possible.
Sometimes the ovaries respond inadequately to the drugs and none, or very few, eggs develop. If it seems unlikely that we will collect many eggs, and therefore the chances of conceiving in a particular cycle are poor, we may advise that the treatment cycle is cancelled.