CHENNAI: Be it Aamir Khan opting to have a child via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) or a movie like Vicky Donor being made on sperm donation, there is no doubt that IVF is no more an alien technology. It is being discussed and debated in every household. Undergoing IVF treatment is a big decision and couples may often feel conflicting emotions of hopefulness, apprehension and uncertainty. Rumours surrounding IVF have created a delusion because of which many couples facing fertility issues still react towards it with scepticism and fear. But it is truly said that half knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance!
To start with, IVF is a procedure in which fertilisation occurs outside the body, but further development of the embryo is carried out in the body of the mother. Today, advances in medical technology, modern medications and compassionate care have made the procedure very easy and safe. Under expert supervision, couples have overcome the most common fears associated with undergoing IVF treatment and have had a safe and successful delivery.
When it comes to IVF, the risks are not the same for all cases. Some couples are at a very low risk while others may be at a higher risk. Also, women trying to conceive through IVF tend to be older, and thus they are more likely to suffer from diseases such as thyroid, hypertension and diabetes. Such conditions can have a significant risk in ensuing pregnancy. As in the case with all medical procedures, it is critical to provide patients/couples with sufficient information so that they can make an informed decision.
For instance, it is a common misbelief that IVF treatments are considered to be painful, but in reality they are not. IVF treatment consists of approximately 10 days of injections for development of follicles (eggs). The pain is very less. Certain patients can take the daily injections on their own with training from a nurse. These are like the daily insulin injections which a diabetic takes every day at home. Less painful and easy to administer.
Most patients come up with concerns such as long hospital stay. This is not the case. The patient is given a daily injection to be taken on time, and come to the hospital for scans. Egg pick up is done under anesthesia and needs one day admission. No night stay is required. At any point, the patient need not get admitted for longer periods.
Another common misconception is association of multiple births with IVF. Studies have shown that the chances of multiple pregnancies are three per cent in IVF-ET (Embryo Transfer). The risk of carrying more than twins is less than five per cent among multiple pregnancies.
Moreover, some couples fear the chances of abnormality in the offspring. There is no increased risk of birth defects in offspring’s (babies) of women who undertake this treatment. Pre-Genetic Screening (PGS) is done to screen whether the embryo is genetically normal or not. It actually helps us to discard genetically abnormal embryos and transfer the normal ones thereby increasing the chances of a normal live birth. One or few cells of embryo are tested.
The only major risk in IVF treatment is OHSS (hyper stimulation of ovaries), particularly in patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
The patient may experience discomfort and bloating to major problem of collection of fluid in abdomen which may require drainage. But with good monitoring throughout the cycle and drug dosage and protocol selection, severe cases can be avoided. A good embryo freezing protocol can help in the prevention of severe OHSS. There are several ways to prevent minor side effects. Effective counselling and prior sensitisation about the programme is one such way.
(The contributing writer practices at Nova IVI Fertility)