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IVF: is it a fast track to pregnancy?

I’ve been treating couples with fertility issues for over 14 years and it seems to be a common consensus that IVF will fast track a couple’s fertility journey to starting a family.

So I thought it would be beneficial for people to understand what IVF is and how it works. This way each couple can assess its suitability for their specific situation.

What is IVF?

IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilisation which means the fertilisation of an egg outside the body (in a dish or test tube).

An IVF cycle aims to encourage a woman’s body to produce many good quality eggs where the embryologist will either allow the sperm to swim and fertilise the egg or a sperm is chosen and injected into the egg (ICSI).

Before I go on lets go right back to the beginning. Couples never think they will need assisted reproductive techniques to fall pregnant unless there is an issue that is already known and IVF is the only option.

In fact, IVF was developed for women with blocked tubes. It is a process where the eggs are collected and then fertilised with their partner’s sperm. However, this is a very simplistic take on fertility. There are many physiological processes that occur in order for the egg to be released from the follicle and there is a long journey for the sperm to reach the egg. So these gametes (eggs and sperm) need to be as healthy as possible.

So how can we make eggs and sperm healthy?

That is a complex answer and is dependent on each person. Firstly, you would look at the couple’s general health; are there any diseases present, medications taken, recreational drugs taken, what is their age, what do they eat on a daily basis, where do they work (stress/chemicals) and other lifestyle factors.

So, what if a couple is healthy but no conception has been achieved?

This is when going to a natural health practitioner such as a Chinese Medicine practitioner can help. Fertility is a natural process, so a practitioner will look at the health of the couple and pin point what perhaps needs some attention and will recommend treatments to bring the body back to optimal health.

When is IVF beneficial?

IVF is great for women with blocked tubes. Herbal medicine can take time to unblock tubes so IVF tends to be an easier process. Obviously, when donor gametes are used, IVF is necessary and if the sperm quality if very poor. IVF can also provide some insight that would otherwise be unknown; for instance egg quality, fertilisation issues, anti-sperm antibodies and many more. It is important to understand that IVF relies on the woman’s body being healthy and hormones at levels suitable for conception.

As I mentioned, IVF is getting the eggs and sperm together and fertilising them. After an embryo is transferred (at either day 2, 3 or 5) the embryo and uterus will communicate and determine whether the embryo will implant. This is why it often isn’t a fast track to falling pregnant because if there are issues effecting fertility, these same issues may impact the success of the IVF cycle.

So what do you do?

In my experience is it always beneficial to explore physical reason for infertility. These include blood tests, sperm analyses, a laparoscopy and other examinations fertility specialist can do.

If this is all clear then seeking help from a natural health practitioner can be beneficial in encourage optimal health. If after a period of time success hasn’t occurred the body will be healthier and more likely to achieve a successful pregnancy with the assistance of an IVF cycle.

Many health concerns, including fertility, can be best addressed when couples utilise both western medicine and complementary medicine. It is important to understand individual circumstances require different approaches to addressing infertility issues.

Chinese Medicine doesn’t take a one size fits all approach to health and for that reason seeking the help of a qualified practitioner is always encouraged.

I would love to hear any of your stories with infertility and how your journey went. If you are on the fertility road, is there something you feel you need to help you through?

Alternatively, if you have a loved one going through this, share this article with them as it may help them look at other options. Understandably, it is a sensitive topic so be mindful of that and only share if you think it will be beneficial to them.