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It ‘s easy to forget the world’s first in-vitro fertilisation baby was born in 1978 in the UK, since then over 8 million baby’s were born worldwide as a result of IVF and other advanced fertility treatments.

IVF (In vitro fertilisation) in many cultures remains a taboo, even in the modern world and many try to avoid the subject. IVF gives woman the chance to start a family, so why does it still remain a taboo topic? 

Although IVF has been around more than 40 years, there is still a strong stigma around it and infertility. Infertility has recently been discussed publicly, with many celebrities speaking up about their challenges and joy in having a child such Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teagan and Michelle Obama who underwent IVF treatment to have her two daughters Malia and Sasha,  In her book she opens up about her fertility challenges and how she felt she was “broken”. Recently, actress Amy Schumer spoke up about her struggles with IVF and how how she was feeling down on Instagram asking for advice through her reproductive journey.

One argument that is strongly portrayed through out history is the idea of woman not being ‘whole’ or ‘not a proper woman’ this argument is at the centre of which spans from the ancient world to this modern day, which is popular amongst Europe, Asia and North America.  So where did this idea come from?

This can be seen from when IVF was first emerged, the media and mass market publications, magazines coverage had a negative outlook and were not described in positive light as woman who where infertile were depicted as a tragedy, and desperation was the most constant theme.

So what can we do to reduce this stigma around infertility and IVF? Well as Michelle Obama said “I think it’s the worst thing we do to each other as women, not [to]share the truth about our bodies and how they work and how they don’t work,” Mrs. Obama told Robin Roberts. Raising awareness and making it aware that fertility is not something to be ashamed of.

 

What Happens During IVF?

IVF Treatment
credits: Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

How Does It Work?

The process for IVF treatment can vary on each person as it is dependant on a persons age and health however, there is a general step outline of what you may expect from the procedure.

1. Day 1- is the first official day of your IVF treatment. Your nurse will assist you on how to identify day 1.

2.  Stimulating Your Ovaries- the most common hormones in the medications used to stimulate the follicles are:

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • luteinizing hormone (LH)

3. Egg Retrival- ‘egg pickup’ you will be sedated to avoid any pain during the procedure – this is where you collect the eggs and it will be placed into the uterus. This procedure will take around 20-30 minutes, which can take place at the doctors office or a clinic.

Your fertility specialist should have a fair idea from your ultrasounds how many eggs there are before retrieval. The average number of eggs collected is 8-15.

4. The sperm.-If you are a couple, the male will provide a sample on the morning of the egg retrieval. Donor sperm can also be used.

5. Fertilisation- Fertilisation can be done in two ways,

  • Conventional insemination- During conventional insemination, healthy sperm and mature eggs are mixed and incubated overnight.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).- In ICSI, a single healthy sperm is injected directly into each mature egg. ICSI is often used when semen quality or number is a problem or if fertilization attempts during prior IVF cycles failed.

7.   Embryo Development- This procedure takes around 5 to 10 minutes. If the sperm fertilises the egg, then it becomes an embryo. This will be placed in a incubator where  the conditions for growth are perfect.

  • Preimplantation genetic testing can also be done to check for any genetic diseases, the doctor can remove a small sample once the embryos reach a certain stage where it can be tested.

8.  Embryo Transfer-  the transfer can be done at your doctors office or your local clinic and usually takes place two to five days after egg retrieval. You might be given a mild sedative. The procedure is usually painless, although you might experience mild cramping. If successful, an embryo will implant in the lining of your uterus about six to 10 days after egg retrieval.

After procedure- consider avoiding vigorous activities that can cause discomfort, as your ovaries may still be enlarged.

Typical side effects include:

  • Passing a small amount of clear or bloody fluid shortly after the procedure — due to the swabbing of the cervix before the embryo transfer
  • Breast tenderness due to high estrogen levels
  • Mild bloating
  • Mild cramping
  • Constipation

9. The Final blood Test / Result

About 12 days to two weeks after egg retrieval, your doctor will test a sample of your blood to detect whether you’re pregnant.

What Are The Risks?

  • Side effects to medications
  • Multiple births such as twins which can be dangerous for the baby and the mother- which can seen as an ethical issue
  • An ectopic pregnancy
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)

What Are The Benefits?

The ultimate advantage for IVF is the option for couples to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.  This can be an ultimate advantage for couples that may not be able to otherwise.

Second advantage to IVF is that it can actually help to overcome problems with a woman fallopian tubes; IVF was first pioneered was for women who had tubal damage or blockages could still have their own children.

Birth rate trends from IVF treatment  have been increasing, and more woman are speaking up about it, which is the start to something as infertility should not be something to be ashamed of.

 

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