What is IVF?

In vitro fertilization, known as IVF, is a medical procedure that women and couples can use in order to conceive a child and become pregnant. The process includes extracting eggs, collecting a sperm sample, and combining the two in a laboratory before transferring them to the uterus. This can be done with the biological parents of the child-to-be, but can also include additional means of reproductive assistance such as donor eggs, donor sperm, or a surrogate.

There are a number of reasons why a woman or couple may choose to use IVF. Parents may want to avoid passing along genetic disorders through their own DNA and must use donor eggs or sperm. Additionally, one or both parents may struggle with infertility as a result of genetic disorders, physical trauma, or even unexplained reasons. An individual wishing to have a child without a partner may also seek IVF as a route into parenthood.

Side Effects and Risks

IVF does have side effects for the biological mother or surrogate mother, including mild cramping, bloating, constipation, or breast tenderness. Symptoms such as heavy vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, blood in the urine, or a fever over 100°F should be discussed with a medical professional immediately. Fertility drugs used throughout the process leading up to insemination may result in side effects such as a headache, mood swings, abdominal pain, hot flashes, abdominal bloating, and in rare cases, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

IVF is a medical procedure and is not devoid of risks. More severe symptoms include nausea, vomiting, decreased urinary frequency, shortness of breath, faintness, severe stomach pains or bloating, and ten-pound weight gain within three to five days. Egg retrieval from the mother or donor can cause bleeding, infection, or other damage to the bowel or bladder. IVF also carries the risk of multiple pregnancies, which presents an associated risk from premature delivery and low birth weight of the babies.

The live birth rate for women using IVF in the United States is approximately 42% for women under the age of 35 and drops each year to roughly 15% for women over the age of 40. Consequently, multiple cycles of IVF treatment can be emotionally, physically, and financially taxing for the woman and her partner.

IVF in Women over 30

In most cases, women under the age of 35 have fewer problems with fertility and reproduction. IVF is a multi-step process for the mother, whether she is using her eggs or a donor’s; using her partner’s sperm or a donor’s; or carrying the child herself or using a surrogate. With such a complex procedure, there is room for risk. These risks and challenges with egg quality and successful pregnancy can present themselves in the case of using IVF to produce a child, especially for women over the age of 30.

As women age, the success of IVF declines. Women over 30, and especially over 40 years of age, are more likely to face miscarriage or stillbirth than younger women. According to recent statistics, the rate of live births in the United States drops from roughly 42% in women under 35 to approximately 15% in women over 40. Additionally, in the case of a successful pregnancy, older women are more likely to have a baby with birth defects or genetic abnormalities, in part due to a natural decline in egg quality and quantity.

With these challenges, the doctor or fertility specialist may find that stronger fertility drugs are needed in order to stimulate ovulation for IVF. As a woman ages, she may require more of this medication prior to egg retrieval, therefore making each treatment cycle more expensive.

Unfortunately, these complications with successful pregnancy and egg quality in the mother cannot be alleviated by IVF alone. Women over the age of 30 may wish to discuss the option of donor eggs and/or surrogacy with their partner and doctor when considering IVF treatment. Reproductive history, the cause of infertility, and lifestyle factors must all be considered when determining whether to use IVF and weighing the associated risks and side effects.

ReUnite Rx is proud to assist couples and individuals undergoing fertility treatments with our need-based assistance program. Active or veteran military members automatically receive a 25% discount with our assistance program. To learn more, visit ReUnite Rx.