Is IVF for You?

If you’re considering this next step in your journey to parenthood, here’s what you should know! By Susan Lau

Finding a life partner is already hard but for some couples, parenthood may not come as naturally as they thought. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help to start a little family of your own! However, some couples may be in more need of help than others.

For couples trying to start a family, stress is a factor that plays quite a large role. According to WebMD, a few studies found that women with high levels of alpha-amylase, a stress marker enzyme, took 29 percent longer to conceive compared to women with less of this enzyme. Of course, women who were stressed could be having less sex, more likely to smoke or drink alcohol and caffeine, which are also causes for lower chances of getting pregnant.

Don’t despair especially for those who get stressed once in a while. Nevertheless, if the stress is ongoing, such as in situations of unemployment or perhaps a death in the family, ovulation may become irregular. Additionally, some women could possibly have a physical problem that they don’t know of such as blocked fallopian tubes. The stress of not being able to conceive could then interfere with the process.

Making changes to your current lifestyle such as moderate physical activity (like walking once to five times a week), watching your weight, and eating a healthy Mediterranean-style diet full of whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, fish and soy, could boost your chances.

We’d like to reiterate that there is no shame in seeking help with you and your partner’s fertility, thus, if you’re feeling a little helpless, perhaps IVF is the answer. In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process where an ovum (egg) is removed from the ovaries and combined with sperm in a liquid in a laboratory.

To shine a light on IVF and perhaps answer some of the questions lingering in your mind, we spoke to Dr. Adilah Ahmat, Clinical Director of NewLife Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur (PHKL).

Dr. Adilah Ahmat, Clinical Director of NewLife Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur (PHKL)

1Twenty80: Firstly, what is IVF?

Dr. Adilah Ahmat: In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is a complex series of procedures used to help with fertility or prevent genetic problems and assist with the conception of a child. It is where fertilisation of the egg by sperm occurs in a place outside of the body.

In-vitro itself is derived from the Latin word meaning ‘within the glass’. The fertilisation of eggs occurs or are formed in a glass container or well. It is famously known as having a ‘test tube baby’.

1Twenty80: When should a couple start considering IVF?

Dr. Adilah: Actually, there is no time frame for a couple to start considering IVF. They can do it whenever they are ready (since IVF gives the highest pregnancy chance). However, due to affordability, IVF is suggested after simpler methods fail or in certain conditions when the fallopian tubes are blocked. This is also for situations where sperm count or quality is too low.

1Twenty80: Would you recommend IVF for older couples?

Dr. Adilah: Yes, because chances for spontaneous pregnancy declines with age due to reduction in egg quality.

It is where fertilisation of the egg by sperm occurs in a place outside of the body.

1Twenty80: Is it possible to conceive twins/ triplets from IVF? How does this happen?

Dr. Adilah: Yes. Especially when doctors insert more than one embryo during the fertilisation into the woman. Rarely, even with one embryo, can it split into two identical embryos resulting in twins.

1Twenty80: What are the common side effects for IVF?

Dr. Adilah: As with anything, of course, a common side effect would be failure. There could also be situations such as over stimulation of the ovaries – ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) – which can be serious. This usually occurs in women who are taking hormone medications in order to stimulate development of eggs in the ovaries. OHSS could also cause the ovaries to swell and become painful.

There is also the risk of complications from the procedure such as an allergic reaction to the medicine, intra-pelvic bleeding, infection, multiple pregnancies and so on.

1Twenty80: What is the timeline like for IVF treatment?

Dr. Adilah: For a fresh cycle, it would take about two to three weeks. For couples who are undergoing segmentation or freeze all transfer later cycle, perhaps two months or more.

By the way, segmentation is where the egg collection and embryo transfer happens in two different cycles. This allows the woman to recover between the initial round of IVF where they take the medication then undergo egg collection. Afterward, the eggs are fertilised and the embryos are then frozen until the woman is ready to be transferred back into the body.

1Twenty80: What kind of activities are restricted during IVF treatment?

Dr. Adilah: Due to the enlarged ovaries because of many big egg follicles, there is the risk of having a twisted ovary or both ovaries. This risk is higher with certain physical activities so it is best to take it easy.

1Twenty80: What is the next step when pregnancy is confirmed?

Dr. Adilah: We will perform a scan one to two weeks later to confirm the number of pregnancies and the location.

1Twenty80: In the event of failure, how soon until the couple can start again?

Dr. Adilah: They can start as soon as the next cycle but we will definitely hold off because it also depends on the emotional state of the couple.

1Twenty80: What is your advice to couples who are trying and possibly considering IVF?

Dr. Adilah: Follow your doctor’s advice!

  • Have a healthy lifestyle.
  • Maintain an ideal body weight because if you are too thin, overweight or obese, this increases the risk of miscarriage.
  • Have a positive attitude!
  • Join support groups where you can share your experiences and seek emotional support from like-minded individuals or those who have had similar experiences.

References: Mayo Clinic; Create Fertility; WebMD