It’s exciting times for couples in Ontario who are having trouble conceiving. The announcement a couple years ago of one funded cycle of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for all couples who need it puts the expensive treatment into the hands of many who may not have had the means to do it on their own
Current research indicates as many as 1 in 5 Canadian couples will have difficulty trying to conceive (defined as no success after one full year of unprotected intercourse for women under 35, or 6 months for women over 35). Same-sex couples or singletons trying to conceive on their own will also benefit from the program. While this is very exciting news to many, let’s take a moment and understand that IVF is not necessarily easy, it doesn’t solve everyone’s issues, and it by no means works every time.
IVF was designed to bring together egg and sperm to assist in conception. Besides some changes to the techniques of the procedures themselves, this has changed very little in the last 36 years or so IVF has been around. ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) is one of the added techniques, which involves the selection of an individual sperm from a sample, which is then injected into the egg with the goal of fertilization. This can all be very successful, if the circumstances in which it is performed are correct, and if the egg and sperm are of good quality.
A successful fertilization then has to be grown into an embryo (or blastocyst) which can then be transferred into the woman’s uterus with the hopes of implantation. The implantation phase is a whole different story. The uterus has to be exactly right in order for it to be successful. Of course, I’m simplifying here a little bit. IVF is a complicated and highly technical procedure done by highly trained professionals whom I have very much respect for. But it still doesn’t work every time. So if you are one of those couples who have been waiting for this opportunity, hoping and praying the government would pull through for you, really listen to what I’m saying here …
What IVF does NOT do is change the quality or quantity of eggs or sperm. It does NOT make you or your partner healthier. It does NOT treat underlying conditions that may or may not be affecting your fertility, hormonal pattern or your ability to carry a child. There ARE however, things that YOU can do to impact these things BEFORE you go through the IVF process to maximize the chances that your one shot will work.