IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) is often the first thing people think of if pregnancy isn’t happening easily. The good news is there are often simpler solutions – or things that should be addressed first to give your IVF treatment the best chance of success.
At Life Fertility we do comprehensive tests and diagnoses of you and your partner before we put you through an IVF cycle. This isn’t the practice everywhere and can lead to unnecessary and unproductive cycles, which are not only costly but take an emotional toll.
We’ll give you honest advice on whether you need IVF and make sure that, if you go ahead with it, your chances of success are the best they can be.
Before you undergo IVF we will offer the following tests
We will test hormone levels for you and your partner and test for any other factors that may be contributing to infertility (such as hypothyroid in women).
It’s surprising how often this simple investigation reveals the real reason for difficulties and either allows a natural pregnancy to occur or ensures that an IVF pregnancy has the best chance of becoming established. Typical problems identified are endometriosis or cysts and these may be treated with medication or surgery, depending on the individual situation. We quite often meet new patients who have undergone IVF treatment but have not had this essential investigation first.
We check a variety of features of the semen including: the number of sperm present (count), the proportion that are swimming (motility), how well they’re swimming (progression) and what they look like (morphology). This provides vital data to help decide whether you want to continue trying to conceive naturally or will choose IVF. A fresh sample of semen must be supplied at our clinic for this test. You can read more in our fact sheet.
Physical and ultrasound investigations
Where your specialist suspects the possibility of some other problem preventing you from falling pregnant, he or she may recommend ultrasound or other investigative procedures.
Genetic testing of a couple before treatment checks their chromosomes to ensure there is no underlying genetic reason for failure to conceive or for recurrent miscarriages.
IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) is the process of fertilising the woman’s egg with the man’s sperm in the laboratory. The resulting embryos are allowed to develop in the laboratory for a few days and then the best embryo is placed back into the woman’s uterus. Any extra viable embryos can be frozen.
To ensure you have a good supply of eggs and to regularise your cycle beforehand, you will need to take hormonal medication.
The man’s semen must be of sufficient number and quality to fertilise the egg in the laboratory. Where this is not the case, an individual sperm can be injected into the egg (Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection or ICSI).
The egg collection is performed under sedation or general anaesthetic in hospital and the embryo transfer is completed at the Life Fertility Clinic around five days later. No anaesthetic is required for the embryo transfer as a simple catheter is used to pass the embryo into the uterus.
In brief, the stages of an IVF cycle are as follows
1. Ovarian stimulation
The aim of ovarian stimulation is to make the ovaries release more eggs than the single one that is normally released in a woman’s monthly cycle. You will be prescribed artificial versions of follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) to stimulate the ovary to produce multiple eggs. Ultrasound scans will then be used to monitor the growth of egg follicles and, if necessary the dose of your medications will be adjusted. FSH is usually a daily injection that you administer yourself after training by our IVF nurse-coordinators.
2. Egg retrieval
When your follicles reach the required diameter, you will take another hormone that prepares the eggs for release and mimics the luteinising hormone surge (LH) that triggers ovulation. This is often referred to as the ‘trigger’. 36 hours later, the eggs will be extracted by our clinician. This procedure is done in hospital under sedation or local anaesthetic and takes about 30 minutes. The eggs are then transferred to a culture medium until insemination with sperm a few hours later.
3. Semen collection
In the simplest scenario, the man produces a semen sample either in our clinic while the woman is undergoing egg retrieval, or at home if that is within an hour’s travel. If there are reasons why the man will not be able to provide a fresh semen sample on the day, we can freeze a semen sample beforehand. If surgical sperm retrieval is required, this can be scheduled for the same day.
4. Fertilisation and embryo culture
Actively swimming sperm are separated from the semen and a very large number are added to the eggs and are allowed to interact overnight. If the sperm number or quality is not suitable for this standard IVF procedure, a single sperm can be injected directly into each egg in a procedure called intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The day after insemination by IVF or ICSI, the eggs are checked to see if they have fertilised. On average about 70% of eggs will fertilise. It is rare for mature eggs not to fertilise at all (less than 5%). The fertilised eggs are allowed to grow in the laboratory for between 2-6 days over which time the best embryos are identified for transfer to the uterus or for freezing.
5. Embryo transfer
Usually Life Fertility transfers embryos on Day 5 at the blastocyst stage. This procedure involves depositing the embryo(s) in the woman’s uterus by passing a catheter (thin plastic tube) through the woman’s cervix. The process only takes a few minutes and does not normally need an anaesthetic. Good quality embryos that are not used can be frozen for a future cycle.
A pregnancy test is arranged 10-12 days after embryo transfer to check if the embryo has successfully implanted. If the test is positive, an ultrasound will be arranged within 2-3 weeks to confirm that the fetus is healthy and a pregnancy care plan will begin.
At Life Fertility we bring together the leading science, people with outstanding experience and proven procedures to give your IVF the best possible chance of success.
Since 2007, we have helped create more than 2000 happy families through IVF and we very much hope yours will be another one.
When you are dealing with something as close to your heart as creating a family, it’s important to choose a clinic you can trust – and one that never stops refining its processes in the light of the latest research.
Life Fertility is one of Australia’s leading fertility clinics and our successful pregnancy rates reflect this.
These are some of the ways we maximise your chances
Pre-IVF diagnostic tests
The best IVF procedures in the world have little chance if you have underlying problems like endometriosis or fibroids. Our laparoscopic investigation and other diagnostic tests can ensure all identifiable barriers to success have been explored.
A ‘blastocyst’ is a human embryo 5-6 days after fertilisation when it is ready to hatch and implant into the uterus. Until about 10 years ago it was not possible to consistently culture embryos to this stage in the laboratory so standard practice in IVF was to place the embryos in the uterus on day 2-3. Many clinics still routinely transfer embryos at this stage. Extending culture to day 5 is routine practice at Life Fertility Clinic. As many human embryos are not destined to reach the blastocyst stage we can be more selective in our choice of embryo for transfer. Read more in our fact sheet.
Mature eggs are surrounded by a glycoprotein coat or shell called the zona pellucida (zona). This coat remains until the embryos reach the blastocyst stage at 5-6 days after fertilisation. The embryo must then break through this coating to implant in the uterus. Hatching may not occur if there are abnormalities in the zona. In older women and those with decreased eggs the zona may be ‘tougher’ or thicker than normal and this may prevent hatching. It is also possible that some of the laboratory processes involved in IVF may themselves result in ‘hardening’ of the zona. Assisted hatching is a procedure carried out on embryos during an IVF cycle to help ensure that hatching can take place. Read more in our fact sheet.
ICSI – Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection
ICSI is best practice IVF for couples where the number of active sperm available is not ideal. In standard IVF, the eggs and sperm are mixed together in a dish and the sperm fertilises the egg ‘naturally’ – but this requires a large number of active, healthy sperm. With ICSI a single selected sperm is picked up with a fine glass needle and is injected directly into each egg. The first pregnancies following ICSI were reported in 1991 and the first baby was born in 1992. Read more in our fact sheet.
Highly skilled specialists
Our Fertility Specialists are amongst Australia’s best and are passionate about constantly enhancing procedures to improve success rates. The experience and skills of those performing procedures are also at the highest level so there is a greater chance of things going really well at every stage.
Our own scientists
Our scientists work in close partnership with our Fertility Specialists to assess potential problems and develop new strategies for those who are having difficulty with establishing a successful pregnancy. It’s all about an individualised approach – not off-the-shelf IVF.
Each cycle of IVF is an emotional, physical and financial investment – the dream of a family almost within reach. Even with the best fertility treatment in the world, life is still unpredictable and no-one can yet claim a 100% success rate with IVF.
The continuing focus on getting pregnant can take its toll on relationships and, even if you’ve mentally prepared yourself for the possibility, not becoming pregnant after an IVF procedure can sometimes feel devastating.
Life Fertility helps you through the emotional challenges by offering a range of additional support services.
These are some of the ways we can help
Free counselling service
We offer you a free counselling session with one of our fertility counsellors for each cycle of IVF. You can even take advantage of this up to four months after your treatment if you find the after-effects catching up on you. If you are struggling to feel positive about everything, please make the most of this professional help. Additional sessions can be arranged whenever you need them.
Nursing support team
Our Life Fertility Clinic Nurse Coordinators are available to discuss any issues experienced as a result of treatment. They are available by appointment or by phoning the clinic. Whether it’s a quick chat to check what you’re feeling is normal or a shoulder to cry on after a setback, it’s good to know there’s someone who understands your situation and has the time to talk things through with you.
Health and wellness program
Although it can be hard when your mind is on other things, healthy nutrition, moderate exercise and relaxation techniques all help keep you on track. Life Fertility offers a range of complimentary classes and sessions to make sure you are at your best emotionally and physically for coping with the challenges of undergoing fertility treatment. Read more about our current program.