What couples need to know before starting IVF

Editor note: April 21-27, 2019 is National Infertility Awareness Week.


Newswise — One in every eight American couples deal with infertility issues, and many turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF) to try and start a family. A Houston Methodist reproductive endocrinologist says there a few things couples should know before going down this path.

“There are many factors that can affect the success of an IVF cycle, but many people view IVF as their safety net that ensures they can have a child anytime,” said Rashmi Kudesia, M.D., reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at Houston Methodist and CCRM Houston. “The first thing I think couples looking into IVF should know is that the success rate for women using their own eggs drops to less than 15 percent in the early 40s and to less than 5 percent in the mid-40s or older. That doesn’t mean IVF won’t work for these couples, but they should know success varies based on age.”

Infertility can affect men and women and is determined when pregnancy does not occur after having unprotected sex for a year for women under age 35 or for six months for women over 35. For many, IVF, the process of combining eggs and sperm outside of the body and then placing an embryo in the uterus, can overcome many common causes of infertility.

“IVF success rates vary widely across a city and the country, but all clinics are required to report data to the CDC,” Kudesia said. “The data is available online at www.cdc.gov/art/artdata, and I recommend that patients use this tool before making a decision.”

Once a couple has chosen a clinic and are ready to begin the IVF process, they begin to have even more questions.

“Two of the most common questions couples ask when starting IVF are about their chances of ending up with multiple babies and how uncomfortable the process will be,” Kudesia said. “There is a perception that any type of assistance with fertility leads to having multiple babies with one pregnancy. With IVF, we increasingly only implant one embryo at a time, so you’d only end up with twins or more if the embryo naturally splits.”

Kudesia added that IVF is a treatment plan that should be very personalized for each woman to help reduce side effects. She said most women experience two weeks of difficult symptoms while they take hormones to help eggs grow, but that the rest of the process should be more comfortable.

“IVF is an incredibly powerful technology that has given many couples the opportunity to be parents,” Kudesia said. “But it isn’t a journey that anyone should enter in to unprepared. Anyone facing infertility and considering IVF should talk to their OB-GYN and a reproductive endocrinologist to review all of their fertility treatment options.”

For more information about Houston Methodist, visit houstonmethodist.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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