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Demystifying The IVF Process

For women and couples that struggle with infertility, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most well-known forms of fertility treatment. And while most people know that the process centers around fertilizing an egg outside of a woman’s body and then placing the embryo into the uterus for implantation, many people don’t know much about other details for the procedure. Hopeful women and couples may be surprised to learn that IVF usually requires multiple rounds, or multiple procedures to successfully conceive.

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What are rounds or cycles?

In IVF, a round or ART cycle refers to the total process required to retrieve eggs and sperm, fertilize the eggs, and insert the embryo into a woman’s uterus. The entire process can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to complete and includes 5 steps:

  1. Fertility medications to stimulate egg production
  2. Egg retrieval from either the woman or a donor
  3. Semen retrieval either from a donor or the man
  4. Insemination where eggs and sperm are combined and the fertilization process is monitored
  5. Embryo transfer to a woman’s uterus

How quickly can a woman get pregnant?

IVF success rates hinge on a variety of factors. Most importantly, age plays one of the highest roles in determining outcomes. The most successful groups tend to be women ages 35 and younger, while women over 40 have the lowest success rates. Another factor depends on how many eggs are retrieved and how many embryos are transferred. Typically, the more eggs and embryos used can help to improve the chances of successfully becoming pregnant. But the total number of cycles a woman undergoes can also impact outcomes.

Why the number of ART cycles matter

According to a 2015 study, the live birth rate from a single first ART cycle was 29.5%. And while the figures hold steady for cycles 2-4, success rates can jump up to 65.3% for women who complete 6 cycles. In other words, the more cycles a woman completed, the higher the chances of successfully getting pregnant and having a live birth. However, keep in mind that many infertility clinics tend to limit patients to 3-4 rounds.

So, what’s the average?

Giving an average can be hard for IVF treatment because many couples stop trying after one or two unsuccessful rounds. Along with the financial cost associated with IVF, the procedure is also emotionally draining, making it understandable that a couple may give up after failed outcomes. However, research has shown that for couples who persist, 45% get pregnant after three full ART cycles.

Knowing if IVF is the right choice

Infertility is a delicate topic that women and couples need to address independently. While IVF is just one of many infertility treatment options available, the procedure isn’t without financial and emotional concerns. And the scenario is especially true since many people are unaware that success rates are higher when women undergo multiple ART cycles. Before selecting IVF, women and couples should speak with a fertility specialist to understand the process thoroughly and make an informed decision.

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