Couples who have been engaging in unprotected intercourse actively for a year but are not successful in getting pregnant should seek advice from a fertility health doctor.
That was what Dr Ethiraj Balaji Prasath, Head & Chief Embryologist of Thomson Fertility Centre shared at I Love Children’s “Know Your FERTILITY WELLNESS”, lunchtime talk “ The Miracle of Life”, held at HarbourFront Centre on 17 June 2016.
Dr Balaji talks about the chances of natural conception and IVF at HarbourFront Centre on 17 June 2016.
Dr Balaji said the Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) Treatment or more commonly known as In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF) Treatment, is an assisted fertilisation procedure where the woman is stimulated with hormones so that she can produce many eggs. These eggs will then be taken out of her body and fertilised with her husband’s sperm. Next, the fertilised eggs will be grown into embryos and transferred back into the woman’s womb in hopes of achieving successful implantation.
Now that we know what it is, how long should couples try to conceive naturally before deciding on IVF Treatment? To answer this, Dr Balaji first defines the term ‘infertility’ as the inability to conceive after having unprotected sex for about 12 months for those below 35. For couples above 35 years, Dr Balaji recommends a six-month time frame, after which to seek help from their fertility doctor. That said, Dr Balaji also stresses that IVF treatment should be kept as the last resort.
It is now a trend in Singapore to get married at a later age. So, by the time couples decide they want to have children, in many cases; the percentage of natural conception is reduced greatly. – Dr. Balaji
The amount of pain and discomfort that a woman might feel was at the forefront of everyone’s mind as Dr Balaji moved on to elaborate more on the actual process of IVF treatment.
Most IVF procedures are targeted towards women because of the eggs that are required. The more eggs that a gynaecologist obtains, the better it is for the IVF treatment procedure. To get these eggs, the woman needs to be adequately stimulated. This is done by giving her hormonal injections and these injections can be painful depending on the woman’s threshold for pain.
There is, however, a silver lining to the hormonal injections.
If the stimulation process has resulted in the woman producing many embryos that are of good quality, some of them may be frozen instead of being discarded. The benefit of this is that the woman would not need to go through the hormone stimulation process again should the couple opt to go through the IVF treatment procedure a second time. Dr Balaji also assured the audience here that there is no difference in the efficacy of fresh and frozen embryos. Both types of embryos have proven to produce good results.
Dr Balaji debunks this myth by informing the audience that although the overall cost is estimated to be around $12,000 to $15,000, there are several co-funding schemes from the Government that eligible couples can apply for to help them with the costs.
Dr Balaji said: “While there is no 100% success rate with IVF procedures, women who are 30 years of age and below have a 50% chance of a successful conception. Women who are above 30 have a 25-40% chance. After the age of 40 years, the chance of a successful conception with IVF procedures drops down to 10-12%.”
As with every other medical procedure, IVF treatment procedures are not 100% risk free. There will be some element of risk involved and all of these risks are explained thoroughly to the couple prior the procedure.
Will IVF procedures lead to a higher chance of triplets or quadruplets?
All IVF centres in Singapore, under the Ministry Of Health regulations have taken this into consideration and are transferring lesser embryos to decrease the chances of couples getting triples or quadruplets. However, the possibility of conceiving twins still cannot be avoided and approximately 12% of pregnancies from IVF procedures result in twins.
Does endometriosis affect the success rates of IVF?
Endometriosis does lower your chances of conception. This is because the toxic fluids from endometriosis make the implantation of the embryos in the womb harder. However, it does depend on the severity of the endometriosis and a fertility doctor will be the best person to access your situation and advise.
What are the chances of a woman with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) conceiving through IVF?
The chances are good for women with PCOS. It is important for women with PCOS to seek advice from a fertility doctor because without help, the irregularity of their menstrual cycle will make conception difficult. Additionally, depending on the severity of the PCOS, the doctor will be able to provide advice on proper treatment plans.
Are there cases where couples who go through an IVF procedure for their first child naturally conceive their second child?
Yes, there are couples who conceive their first child through IVF and conceive their second child naturally. From a medical point of view, such cases are termed as ‘waking up the reproductive system’ via IVF treatment procedures.
I Love Children thank Dr Ethiraj Balaji Prasath for his valuable input.