In Vitro Fertilization: Hazards & Challenges

April 21, 2015

In Vitro Fertilization: Hazards & Challenges

myfuture / Flickr / CC BY-SA

Did you know that there are 6.7 million women suffering from infertility today in the US alone? Yet, despite the increasing infertility rates, modern medicine has been quick to come up with solutions.

Even though studies of human embryology and developmental biology began in the 18th century, the most notable progress has occurred in just the last two to three decades.

Women having trouble conceiving can choose from a number of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) such as: artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) and others. The IVF process is by far the most common.

There are a number of factors that can determine the outcome of the procedure. Age and fitness of the would-be mother can severely influence the IVF cycle. Though, despite being a fairly complicated process it remains relatively safe and it has lead to more than 5 million births worldwide.

If you're considering using IVF or you want to work as an IVF technologist, learn more about this innovative technology below.

In Vitro Fertilization and Infertility Treatments: Why Do We Need Them?

In Vitro Fertilization and Infertility Treatments: Why Do We Need Them

thtstudios / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

According to a CDC report, fertility in women starts to decrease in their early thirties. At age 35, there’s a 50% chance of unassisted pregnancy.

Women at the age of 40 stand a 36% chance of conceiving naturally and women at 45 — just 5%.

Additional causes of Infertility:

  • Genetic disorders (in both men and women)

  • Damaged, blocked or removed fallopian tubes (women)

  • Ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure (women)

  • Decreased sperm count and/or motility (men)

IVF laboratories provide a full array of fertility services including andrology testing and endocrinology testing. Despite that, only 5% of infertile couples use IVF or other type of infertility treatments. Some are not even aware that they suffer from a disorder which prevents them getting pregnant.

It is important to note that the number of people interested in the in vitro procedure (both patients and healthcare specialists) is steadily increasing. This is largely due to spreading awareness on the subject of assisted pregnancy.

IVF success rate:

According to the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technologies, here are the average success rates for IVF by age group:

  • under 35 (early thirties and twenties): 41–43%

  • 35–37 (mid thirties): 33–36%

  • 38–40 (late thirties): 23–27%

  • 41 and over (early forties): 13–18%

What Is In Vitro Fertilization?

IVF is the process of assisted fertilization. An egg and sperm are manually combined in a laboratory dish, and then the embryo is transferred to the uterus.

IVF Process Steps:

  • Step one — Special drugs suppress the natural menstrual cycle.

  • Step two — Super-ovulation. Fertility drugs are taken to make the ovaries produce more eggs than normal.

  • Step three — Eggs are retrieved through a minor surgical procedure with light sedation.

  • Step four — Insemination. Eggs and sperm are mixed together in a laboratory environment. Once cell division starts, the fertilized eggs are considered embryos.

  • Step five — The embryos are transferred back into the woman’s uterus.

Risks & Hazards Related to The Procedure

Research on the topic suggest that IVF poses no great hazards for the patient. However, there is no universally accepted opinion on exactly how safe the procedure is.

Doctors, embryology (IVF) technologists and researchers work together to ensure the well-being of both mother and embryo.

There is a 1–2% chance of increased risk of genetic disorders in children conceived through ART. Yet it is unclear if this is due to the complications that had lead to infertility in the first place, or to the procedure, itself.

Common Side effects of IVF:

  • Passing a small amount of clear or bloody fluid right after the procedure

  • Mild cramping

  • Breast tenderness

  • Constipation

  • Bloating

Rare side effects:

  • Pelvic pain

  • Blood in the urine

  • Fever

Fertility Medications and IVF Risks:

Some medications and the procedure itself may cause these side effects or negative reactions:

  • Mood swings

  • Abdominal pain

  • Headaches

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weight gain

  • Faintness

In Vitro Fertilization Risks

danepstein / Flickr / CC BY-NC

Related, but extremely rare complications: infections, damage to the bladder or bowel (during egg retrieval), premature delivery or low-weight birth.

Unlike a lot of medical procedures, IVF poses almost no risk of any major or lasting health problems for the patient. Children born as a result of assisted pregnancy are as healthy as naturally conceived babies.

The risks only go up in the case of twins and triplets. Singleton births don't lead to a higher chance of disabilities.

In Vitro Fertilization Cost

The price typically ranges between $12,000–$17,000 depending on the state and the healthcare institution or clinic. The good news is that some insurance plans provide coverage for fertility treatment.

There's been an increased demand for embryology technologists and other specialists in the field of human developmental biology. Therefore, if this is a field you're interested in pursuing, now is a great time to get started.