If you’re looking for advice about options surrounding fertility, pregnancy or counselling, always consult your doctor.
It’s a treatment that tens of thousands of Australian women undergo every year, yet there’s a lot of misconceptions and confusion about IVF.
We asked Genea Fertility Specialist Dr Alison Gee about the most common IVF myths and what’s actually true.
MYTH: IVF causes cancer.
“There have been a number of published studies in the literature and none show that stimulation with the injectable hormones used IVF causes cancer,” says Dr Gee.
MYTH: IVF will cause early menopause.
Some people believe IVF can cause a woman to have an early menopause because eggs are being removed.
"At the beginning of each cycle the ovaries recruit a number of eggs that could get stimulated that month. Normally one egg matures and ovulates and the others in the group die," says Dr Gee.
"When women do IVF, all the eggs that are naturally recruited that month get stimulated in the hope they will all mature. Other eggs that are in the ovaries for the subsequent cycles are not stimulated and therefore the egg reserves are not reduced."
MYTH: The process will always end in pregnancy.
Unfortunately, it's not the case.
"The reality of IVF is that it is not 100 per cent successful for all couples so it's important to address this in a couple's initial consultation," says Dr Gee.
"It is important to have strategies in place such as counselling within clinics for couples to help them manage a pathway that has not been successful."
MYTH: IVF is always extremely expensive.
According to Dr Gee, depending on where a couple live in Australia there may be several options to undertake IVF treatment.
"In NSW, IVF can be accessed affordably through the public hospital system or privately through a number of clinics which offer both bulk billing and non-bulk billing IVF," she says.
"It is worth remembering that Medicare provides a substantial rebate for the cost of treatment for eligible patients."
MYTH: You need lots of time off work.
Yes, IVF does require time commitment from couples but Dr Gee says the monitoring and treatment has been streamlines to try and ensure as minimal time off work is needed.
"Monitoring is generally done early in the morning before work hours, though couples will still need time off work for the egg collection and embryos transfer," she says.
"Some patients will feel the effects of the medication more than others and in that situation may need time off work to manage symptoms and recovery."
MYTH: IVF will usually result in having twins or triplets.
"In most IVF clinics in Australia single embryo transfer practices are now in place to minimise the risk for twins. Should a couple have only one embryo transferred to the females uterus the chance for twins is 1-2 per cent," says Dr Gee.
"This is the chance that the embryo will split and couples will have identical twins. In Australia it is not common for couples, particularly younger couples to have two embryos transferred back to the uterus."
MYTH: It will take countless rounds until it is successful.
There are a number of factors that impact on the number of cycles it may take a couple to conceive, including female age, the cause for the couples' infertility and the ovarian reserve for a woman.
"IVF success rates are higher now that they were several years ago," says Dr Gee.
"On average the majority of couples who succeed with IVF with achieve pregnancy within 3-4 stimulated IVF cycles."
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MYTH: Older women can't do IVF.
"IVF at any age carries some risks associated with the procedures of ovarian stimulation and egg collection," says Dr Gee.
"As women get older they may acquire gynaecological or medical conditions which may increase the risk of complications with IVF."
Because the success rate of IVF treatment does significantly reduce for women over the age of 35 years, very few women do so with their own eggs over the age of 45.
"Women, however, can successfully conceive a child through IVF treatment up to 50 years of age by using donated eggs, and depending on the age of their egg donor may the same chances of success than those under the age of 35," says Dr Gee.
MYTH: IVF is the "only" or "last" option when struggling with infertility.
"Depending on the cause of a couple’s infertility, there may be several treatment options available for infertility. This might include a laparoscopy and treatment for endometriosis, clomiphene citrate for ovulation disorders, mild stimulation of the ovaries and intrauterine insemination or IVF," says Dr Gee.
"For some couples IVF may be the only option, for example if a female had both tubes surgically removed, IVF would be required to achieve a pregnancy."