Initially the woman is given medication to encourage the production of eggs in the ovaries. Following this, doctors will monitor the woman’s progress using blood tests and ultrasound examinations. Just before the eggs are due to be removed, the woman will be given a hormone injection to help the eggs to develop fully. This method involves fertilisation outside of the body; the eggs are removed from the woman’s body and then fertilised by sperm inside a laboratory. Once fertilisation has taken place, the fertilised embryo (or embryos) is then put back in the woman’s womb. It is then a matter of waiting to see if the treatment is successful.
Who can have IVF?
NHS guidelines recommend that couples are entitled to IVF on the NHS if the woman is aged between 23 and 39, the source of the infertility problem has been diagnosed and they have been trying to conceive for at least three years. However, in some cases the requirements for qualification may be different, as different Primary Care Trust may have slightly different criteria. Priority is usually given to couples that do not have children already.
What if IVF doesn’t work?
NHS guidelines suggest that couples that qualify for IVF should be offered three cycles of treatment; if this fails, the couple may consider getting private treatment or considering options such as adoption or surrogacy.
How successful is IVF?
Success rates are still relatively low ; statistics published by the NHS in 2006 found that the success rates were as follows:
- 29% for women under the age of 35
- 26% for women aged between 35 and 37
- 17% for women aged between 38 and 39
- 11% for women aged between 40 and 42
Is treatment available immediately?
In most Primary Care Trusts there is a lengthy waiting list for IVF treatment. Private health providers can often offer treatment much quicker but it can be extremely expensive and the results are not guaranteed.
Are there any risks involved?
Aside from the mental trauma of going through IVF, there are several possible risks associated with this treatment. The most common risks include unpleasant reactions to fertility drugs (including hot flushes, nausea and headaches), ectopic pregnancy (where the fertilised egg is located in the wrong place and starts to develop on the outside of the womb; this usually causes bleeding and discomfort) and multiple births; although many women dream of having more than one baby, this can actually carry serious risks to both the health of the babies and the mother. Multiple births can cause high blood pressure and contribute to diabetes; multiple births also usually result in premature birth, which can potentially be fatal.
How much does private treatment cost?
Each clinic charges different prices and it is best to get quotes from a few different providers before you choose which one to go for. Remember to take into account any treatment you will need prior to and following the actual IVF cycle. As a general guide, patients should expect to pay at least £3,000 per cycle of IVF.