Lesley & John Brown first IVF parents. Source: DailyMail.co.uk
Thirty-five years ago, infertile couples wishing to be parents, did not have an option to conceive a child of their own. In 1978 that all changed when little Louise Brown was born. She was the first successful In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) baby and since she was born, approximately 5 million more IVF babies have been born.
IVF has come a long way and success rates have gone from 12% a cycle to about 30%. IVF, however, is still extraordinarily costly for couples, invasive and not at all a guaranteed solution. Statistically speaking, if you have viable eggs, you have a 70% chance of NOT getting pregnant during an IVF cycle. On average it will take two to three cycles to get pregnant. IVF will cost a couple approximately $12,000-$15,000 per cycle, not to mention the time and emotional impact on the couple.
Not all couples having a difficult time conceiving need IVF. Before diving into spending major cash, make sure that you have exhausted all natural and cost efficient options first.
What to Try First: Pre-IVF Check List
Pinpoint your Fertile Window with your own Biological Cues:
Precisely pinpoint your fertile window and have sex during this time for at least 3-6 months. Having sex every other day until you are pregnant will also work, but this isn’t a realistic option for many couples, especially if it is taking longer than anticipated. So take the time to figure out 1) when your fertile window occurs and 2) if you are ovulating or not.
This may seem too simple, but during a Q&A session with Dr. Don Aptekar, who has helped couples conceive for over 40 years, he said that the number one issue his patients have when not getting pregnant is timing the fertile window properly.
It’s not enough to use apps or guess. You are guessing if you think you ovulate based on math alone. You need to know when you ovulate based on your own biological clues.
Click below to download a free Ebook Read to learn more about pinpointing your fertile window.
Men, your wife may be peeing on sticks, taking her temperature each day and cutting caffeine out of her daily life. Support her by making the best out of the fertile window and making her feel loved and sexy.
Men- Get Your Sperm Checked out:
If you’ve been properly timing intercourse for several months with no luck so far or if you are both older and don't want to waste precious time, it’s time to get your sperm checked out. It’s a complete misconception that infertility is mainly due to the woman. In fact, nearly half of infertility cases are due to the husband having male-factor infertility. The semen analysis should take into consideration your sperm count, the volume, motility (movement), and the shape of the sperm. Even if you have had a child before, it’s good to get checked out again.
Don't be too stressed if you find out something is wrong with your sperm. This rarely means that you can’t have a biological child of your own with the help of a fertility specialist.
Ladies Check on your Egg Reserve:
One of the best tests to check on your egg reserve is the anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) test. This is a preferred test over other methods since it can be done at any time during your cycle and does not require an ultrasound. Please note, however, there is currently no test for egg quality. Age is the best determinant of egg quality- unfortunately the older we get, the lower our egg quality. If you have a low AMH score, your doctor will talk to you about your next steps and options.
Eat for Fertility:
Eating specific foods and reducing others has been scientifically proven to help with fertility. Also, if you have fibroids or other hormonal issues the hormones found in meat and dairy products are directly related to fibroids and other hormonal problems. Should your doctor find these issues, you should significantly reduce meat and dairy in your diet.
Being either overweight and underweight can also significantly impact fertility in both men and women. You should get into the best shape possible. Moderate exercise and a healthy diet for both partners can significantly increase your chances of getting pregnant. Even if it turns out you will need IVF, being healthy will significantly increase the odds of IVF working. Click here for The Backed By Science Fertility Diet.
Make Sure you aren’t Killing Sperm:
Did you know some lubricants can affect sperm mobility? Due to this fact, there are now sperm-friendly lubes for couples trying to conceive. Plus, a lubricant can help make sex more fun and comfortable, especially if it’s starting to feel less romantic.
Men it is not an old wives tale that heat can kill your sperm. Avoid hot tubs, laptops on the lap and saunas. Click here for a good resource on other lifestyle habits that impact sperm.
Have you been told to stop stressing and want to slap the messenger in the face? Totally understand, but unfortunately, this advice is spot on. Stress has been scientifically proven to decrease fertility. Laughter, friendship, hugs, exercise, vacation, meditation, and yoga can all help to destress.
Join a chat group, read books on the fertility journey and talk to a therapist if needed.
Have you Been Trying Long Enough:
Getting pregnant can take a whole lot longer than people think. For women age 30, the chance of naturally conceiving is about 20% per cycle. For women age 40, the chance of naturally conceiving is less than 5% per month (for women with viable eggs left). It's actually not all that much higher using IVF (source). If you are no longer in your 20s, you may only have 4 quality eggs in a year versus the 12 viable eggs you had a year in the past. What this means, is that you may not be infertile, it just may take you longer.
You’ve done all the above, is there anything else to do?
Typically, the only circumstances you should start with IVF are under the following conditions: low sperm count, tubal blockage, 3 or more miscarriages or it is recommended by your OBGYN for a particular issue. If you know that you don't have any of the above issues, have regular periods, and that you ovulate regularly, ask your doctor for a couple of tests to rule out some issues that could be impeding conception such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, endometriosis and potential hormonal imbalances. If you have already been diagnosed with unexplained infertility click here for more information.
If you are older than 35 years of age, IVF has not yet solved the biological clock issue. Once a woman has no eggs left, the only options left to be a parent are to use donor eggs or adopt (source).
For couples with that have tried everything and are good candidates for success, IVF may be a great option.
Thankfully we have the science now to help resolve many issues that cause infertility.