In Australia, In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), has been helping create families for over 40 years – and yet, it still remains one of those topics that isn’t talked about openly (though thankfully, things are changing!). But it’s 2022, and we know now more than ever before – that there’s more than one way to make a baby.
That’s why we’ve partnered with Genea to give parents a complete rundown of the IVF process. Whether you are considering IVF yourself, you want to support someone who is going through the IVF process, or you just want to help bring light to IVF babies in your parenting circle – we’ve got you covered.
Why the IVF route?
There are many reasons why someone may choose IVF as the best method to help start their family. IVF can be used by couples experiencing either male or female fertility issues (e.g. low sperm count, PCOS, endometriosis) to help start or add on to their family. And while this is a well-known reason – IVF helps many families of all different forms make babies every single year.
IVF can provide same-sex couples with another way to become parents. Whether that is a gay couple donating sperm and using a surrogate, or lesbian couples can have one partner donate the egg, and the other partner carries the baby so they both get to play a physical role in bringing their little one into the world.
It also gives women the option to become mothers through the use of a sperm donor – and we are all for the age of taking motherhood into our own hands!
How does IVF actually work?
Now we’ve gone over just some of the reasons why people choose IVF – let’s go over the actual process. We are going to get a little sciency here, but don’t worry, we promise to keep it light and fun.
(A little disclaimer – this process is based on what we learnt when we recently had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at a Genea clinic – so depending on where you go for your treatment, the process may look a little different!)
When someone decides to pursue IVF, it all begins with the consultation process.
You have two options as your first step, you will need a GP referral to see a Fertility Specialist. However, you can talk to a Genea Fertility Advisor with no referral who can assist with making an appointment to see a GP that specialises in Fertility.
The Fertility Specialist will discuss with you your unique fertility situation and review any previous fertility tests and/or treatments you’ve had in the past. They will also take you through how the IVF process works and create a personalised treatment plan. The typical IVF treatment cycle can take around four weeks, depending on your unique situation.
When it comes to success rates, it differs for each individual and their specific fertility situation. The Australian government has put together a useful tool to evaluate your potential success if you do decide to go down the IVF route. Each clinic also has its own success rates – so make sure you research your clinic and compare how they stack up!
Once you begin your IVF journey – it will most likely start with some blood tests to check that your body is ready to start treatment. If they all come back normal, then it is time to start with your daily fertility medication. You will most likely be using a form of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). FSH is administered through a diabetic-style pen and it essentially puts your ovaries into overdrive mode – so they can produce more eggs than in a normal cycle.
As you continue to take fertility medication, you’ll keep having blood tests to measure your hormone levels, as well as an ultrasound to check in on how the follicles are growing.
Once your follicles have reached the best size, you’ll be scheduled for egg collection. Timing is a big deal when it comes to IVF – so your eggs will be collected just before ovulation would have occurred.
Your eggs are found using ultrasound and then collected through a small needle and the procedure only takes between 10-20 minutes. During the procedure, you’ll most likely just be put under light sedation and local anaesthetic – but if you’d prefer, you can request a general anaesthetic.
If you have a male partner who will be contributing to the baby-making – they’ll also provide a sperm sample on the same day.
Now here’s where the magic gets well and truly underway – either your egg will be fertilised by sperm under the romantic glow of the lab light, or you may opt for something like ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection).
With ICSI, rather than the sperm and egg being left alone to make the magic happen by themselves, they are given a helping hand by directly injecting a single sperm into the egg. This may be done when male infertility is the reason a couple has been struggling to fall pregnant.
It takes a little while for the egg and sperm to get acquainted – so your Embryologist will give you a call the morning after to let you know how many of your eggs were successfully fertilised.
At Genea, the embryos are then placed in Genea’s proprietary Geri® incubation system, where they can grow and be monitored for a few days. Geri® is designed to mimic the undisturbed environment of a woman’s body – which has seen a 12.2% increase in the number of pregnancies* when compared to the traditional incubator and culture medium system.
Plus, at Genea – each patient has access to photos and video from inside the incubator, which means you can check in on how your little embryos are progressing.
Embryo transfer + waiting game
After your embryos have developed, your embryologist will pick the best embryo and you’ll be brought in to have it transferred to your uterus. Then it is just the classic waiting game (approx 11 days!) before having a blood test to determine if you are pregnant, this two-week wait can seem to take forever as you anxiously wait to find out if you are pregnant
The remaining embryos that were not implanted are frozen in case you need them in the future to make an IVF sibling!
And with that, our deep dive into the IVF journey is complete. With anything regarding your fertility, it’s important to find a clinic and a team of professionals who understand your needs and are going to support you. But we hope this breakdown has shed some light on the process for you in case IVF ever becomes a part of the baby-making process for yourself or someone you care about. However, it is important to know that 50% of people experiencing infertility that seek help from a Fertility Specialist never need IVF, so it’s good to know that there are other options to explore.
This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x Genea.
* When compared to the MINC incubator and Gems sequential media. Study performed in Genea’s Canberra, Wollongong, Liverpool, North West, RPA and Kent St laboratories, 2015-2019. The Geri incubation system was used in all Genea clinics by 2018. Published in a peer reviewed journal Fertility and Sterility and presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) congress in 2020, official reference being: Peura T, Murray A, Hesketh N, Dalati S, Bowman M, McArthur S (2020): Is the biggest impact on clinical IVF outcomes obtained by implementation of continuous media, time-lapse incubator or both? Fertil Steril 114 (3) Suppl., e129. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2020.08.383.