What is In Vitro Fertilisation?
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is the medical term given to a process whereby fertilisation takes place outside the female’s body.
During this treatment, the female partner is given medication to stimulate egg production within her ovaries. These eggs are retrieved under light sedation using a fine needle that is passed through the vagina guided by ultrasound. Once collected, the eggs are mixed with the male partner’s sperm and hopefully will fertilise to form embryos.
The embryos are allowed to develop for 2-3 days in an incubator, following which, selected embryos are replaced into the female partner’s womb using a fine catheter that is passed through the cervix.
After 2 weeks a pregnancy test is performed. Clearly, like any medical treatment IVF is not without its associated risks. Your consultant will explain these to you during your visits.
What is Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection ICSI?
Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) differs from IVF in that instead of allowing the sperm themselves to fertilise the female’s egg. Sperm are selected by the embryologist before being injected directly into the egg.
This treatment is useful if there are very few sperm, very abnormal sperm or where fertilisation has failed to occur with IVF.
What are the risks of IVF/ICSI treatment?
As with any form of treatment, potential risks and side-effects do exist.
If more than one embryo is placed in the uterus, there is a higher chance that you could end up having twins or very rarely triplets, rather than a single pregnancy.
Multiple pregnancies carry extra risks themselves, upping the chance of pregnancy complications or miscarriage. Mild reactions to the drugs sometimes occur, causing symptoms such as headaches, mood swings and hot flushes. A more severe reaction is called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, where cysts develop on the ovaries and fluid collects in the abdomen. Symptoms of this include abdominal swelling, pain, vomiting and nausea.
Sometimes it is also possible to have an ectopic pregnancy, whereby the embryo develops in a fallopian tube, rather than the womb. If you are having IVF and develop any unusual or concerning symptoms, then it is important to speak to your doctor immediately.
Undergoing IVF can be emotionally challenging too, especially when treatment cycles are unsuccessful. You can receive counselling from our independent fertility counselling service as well as other support groups available in the UK.
Is there a risk of a multiple pregnancy?
Yes, multiple births (twins or very rarely triplets) are more common in couples undergoing fertility treatments (up to 25%).
The risks associated with a multiple pregnancy are significantly higher than a singleton pregnancy with higher rates of miscarriage, pregnancy complications and prematurity amongst other things.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have set targets to reduce the rate of multiple pregnancy over the next few years. Currently, a maximum of 2 embryos can be replaced during IVF treatment in women less than 40 years old. However, in certain circumstances when the risk of multiple pregnancy is high (Age below 38, top quality embryo and first treatment cycle) only one embryo is replaced.
Does the RFC offer any treatment 'add ons'?
The RFC incorporates embryo glue into all fresh and frozen embryo transfers at no additional cost. No other ‘add ons’ are provided.
Please see the HFEA website for further information