IVF Meaning and Essential Information
For people who are struggling to conceive, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a medical procedure that offers hope for achieving pregnancy. IVF is not the same as Intrauterine insemination (IUI), where fertilization takes place internally. With IVF, fertilization takes place outside the uterus. If you are convinced that you are not destined to conceive, you are not alone. Many would-be parents turn to IVF and find success, but the treatment comes with a torrent of risks and side effects. If you are considering IVF, please read this article first. It provides details about the IVF process you should be aware of before you make a hefty emotional, physical, and financial investment. This article also suggests ways to deal with IVF side effects, and better yet, how you may be able to avoid them altogether.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)
Fertility drugs stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs during IVF. These synthetic hormones are usually administered via injection in combination with other drugs that control the timing of egg retrieval, which is a critical part of the IVF process.
When it comes to fertility medications, specialists must maintain a delicate balance between dosages, timing, and each individual patient’s needs and response to treatment. If ovaries are overstimulated, symptoms such as swollen ovaries, pain, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath may occur. Rare but serious side effects include blood clots or kidney failure.
Make sure that your fertility specialist closely monitors you for early signs of OHSS and adjusts your treatment appropriately. Sometimes treatment must be postponed or cancelled to avoid onset of OHSS.
During IVF treatment, some people opt to have two or more embryos transferred to the uterus to help increase the odds of pregnancy. The idea of having twins or triplets might seem appealing to people who want to start a family, but multiple pregnancies can come with additional risks and complications to both the fetuses and the one carrying them.
Patients who carry multiple fetuses should be closely monitored for signs of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and placental problems that can cause bleeding and distress to the fetuses. During delivery, vaginal tearing and hemorrhage are a higher concern, and cesarean delivery may be necessary due to the position of the fetuses.
In multiple pregnancies, fetuses are at higher risk in utero, during delivery, and after birth. In utero, there may not be sufficient space for the fetuses to develop properly. Blood flow can become imbalanced so that one fetus receives too much, while the other(s) gets too little. Premature delivery is common with multiple pregnancies. Low birth weights, developmental delays, and other more serious or fatal side effects can result.
To avoid multiple pregnancies, elective single embryo transfer (eSET) is recommended. However, this will decrease the odds of a successful IVF treatment.
When the reproductive system functions normally, the ovary releases an egg, and it travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. With IVF treatment, fertilized eggs are deposited directly into the uterus. With ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants in a fallopian tube or somewhere else other than the uterus.
Although there is not enough evidence to support the idea that IVF causes ectopic pregnancy, studies show the risk of ectopic pregnancy increases with IVF treatment. Contributing factors may include the use of fertility drugs, the procedure for transferring the fertilized egg, or existing medical conditions common among women who experience infertility, such as fallopian tube damage or other structural abnormalities and imbalanced hormones.
Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include pain, dizziness, and bleeding. Anyone undergoing IVF treatment who experiences these symptoms should immediately seek medical attention. Left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can cause serious and potentially deadly complications, such as a ruptured fallopian tube, internal bleeding and shock, and organ damage.
Early detection and treatment can minimize the side effects of ectopic pregnancy.
According a report published by the Centers for Disease Control, fetuses conceived via IVF have elevated risk for birth defects, and developmental disability. Another study that examined IVF pregnancies achieved by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) showed the risk of congenital heart defects increased significantly, “by about 50%, as compared with pregnancies conceived spontaneously.” However, the risks are associated with multiple embryo transfer.
As mentioned earlier, multiple pregnancies can be avoided with eSET, but this will decrease the likelihood of conception. It is also important to note that statistically, the risk of birth defects for pregnancies achieved with IVF is very low.
IVF Cost and Emotional Burden
IVF treatments may be more expensive and emotionally overwhelming than you imagined, and experiencing multiple failed IVF treatments can be a crushing experience.
This hypothetical scenario is based on real conversations from IVF support groups:
Imagine willingly forgoing vacations or upgrading to your home so that you can pay for your third IVF treatment. They make you drink an unreasonable amount of liquids all at once and then hold your pee while they push on your belly. You take another personal day off work, not for mental rejuvenation, but so that they can use a metal rod to dilate your cervix. You are not sleeping well, because of the medications that you continue taking even though you are fully convinced they are not working. You wander through your home at all hours and imagine a three-year-old in fuzzy bunny slippers arguing with you like a little lawyer. Your family members have no idea the amount of stress you are experiencing, and they still expect you to be the same, supportive, giving person you were before you started IVF treatments. You do not dare to hope that this IVF treatment will work, because you have done this before without success. You’ve trained your brain to disregard ideas like remodeling the shower or taking a vacation, because all of your extra funds are going to IVF.
Before you make a decision to invest in and subject yourself to IVF treatments, make a plan for self-care and prepare coping strategies so that you can avoid feeling isolated and overwhelmed. Check with your insurance provider to find out what services are available, if needed.
This checklist and can help you get started:
- Healthy lifestyle (may include losing weight, reducing alcohol consumption, stopping smoking, etc.)
- Proper nutrition
- Mental health counseling
- Support groups (in person or online)
- Yoga and meditation
- Gentle exercise
- Education (books, podcasts, and other IVF-related information)
- Research nonprofit organizations in your area that offer scholarships and grants for IVF
Avoid IVF or Increase Your Odds of Successful IVF
If the cause of your infertility can be addressed, you might be able to avoid IVF treatments.
Causes for infertility include:
- Blocked Fallopian Tubes
- Endometriosis & Infertility
- PCOS: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Age, FSH, Hormonal Problems
- Secondary Infertility
And perhaps the most frustrating of all: Unexplained Infertility.
At Clear Passage Physical Therapy, we compassionately invite you to explore our long track record of safely and successfully treating infertility naturally. Many of our patients have been able to avoid all the negative side effects and risks associated with IVF medications and procedures. They report feeling better than they felt prior to treatment, and most importantly, they conceive naturally.
Clear Passage successfully treats blocked fallopian tubes/hydrosalpinx, endometriosis pain and infertility, PCOS, hormone problems, and unexplained infertility. Published studies and patient testimonials show that Clear Passage is the leading industry standard in the all-natural, non-surgical, non-evasive treatment of female infertility at a fraction of the cost of IVF.
For patients who choose to undergo IVF treatments, we can provide specialized treatments that get your body prepared for IVF and increase your odds of success. We have prepared a wonderful, relaxing environment for you. Our patients report that our gentle, yet effective hands-on treatment is exactly the alternative they have been looking for, that hormone levels go from unacceptably high to within a normal range, and they regularly attribute their IVF success to our Pre-Transfer Therapy.
IVF can be complex and more difficult than people imagine. At Clear Passage, we hope to help you avoid the potential physical, emotional, and financial costs of IVF treatment with a less invasive, safer infertility treatment. While IVF can be a highly effective treatment for infertility, the potential risks and side effects are numerous. Weigh your decision carefully. If you do choose to pursue IVF, we can work with your healthcare providers and fertility specialists to help increase your chances of a successful outcome.