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How to Get Pregnant / Pregnancy / SMG

What Most Couples Experience on Their IVF Journey

What Most Couples Experience on Their IVF Journey

What Most Couples Experience on Their IVF Journey

Thanks to medical advancements, assisted reproduction techniques such as in vitro fertilisation have been helping couples conceive.

While every couple hopes for a natural conception, the truth is that 1 in 7 couples in Singapore are affected by infertility problems. If you are considering in vitro fertilisation (IVF) to increase your chances of conceiving, here is a breakdown on what most couples experience on their journey.

What Happens During IVF?

A typical IVF cycle, which begins on the second day of a woman’s period, lasts between 10 to 12 days. During that time, the patient may have to take hormone stimulation medication daily in the form of an injection. She will then have to visit the clinic about a week later for an ultrasound scan to determine how well the medication is working. After an average of 10 to 12 days, once the eggs are assessed to be mature, they are then prepared for egg retrieval.

“Egg retrieval is much like an ultrasound scan, except that it’s done under anaesthesia. There’s a needle attached to the probe that will go in vaginally to retrieve the eggs,” explains Dr Fong Yang, an accredited IVF clinician.

The eggs will then be passed to the embryologist, who will choose mature eggs to be injected with healthy, normal-looking sperm. Once fertilisation occurs, the embryos will be grown for 5 days in the lab to ensure that they are developing healthily. Dr Fong shares that freezing the embryos for a couple of months before the transfer may be a way to increase the success rate.

“The fact that you can bring your embryos to day 5 means that these are already pretty good embryos. If the lab is experienced enough, they can actually tell which of these will survive the freezing process. So those that do survive are the cream of the crop,” he says.

Couples can then come back to the clinic a few months later for the embryo transfer, which is generally a simple procedure that Dr Fong likens to a Pap smear or an intra-uterine insemination/IUI process. Pregnancy testing can be carried out 2 weeks after the transfer.

What Should I Prepare?

If you have any medical reports from previous fertility treatments or tests, do bring them along for your first appointment, says Dr Fong. “The first assessment is to see if there are any correctible problems that can be treated easily, and to see if there are any easier ways of getting them to conceive without having to resort to IVF,” he explains.

“Out of 10 patients that see me, maybe only 2 or 3 will end up doing IVF,” he adds.

The expense of one IVF cycle can usually be broken down into three components: the lab, the retrieval and/or embryo transfer, and medication. According to Dr Fong, the lab component can cost between S$8,000 and S$10,000, while the hormone medication, which would depend on your age and personal needs, ranges between S$2,000 and S$5,000. The retrieval fees, including the anaesthetist’s fees, is approximately $2,000. These would of course vary from centre to centre, depending on the experience of the lab, the surgeon and the embryologists.

While his clinic has a success rate of 50% to 60%, Dr Fong stresses that IVF is not a foolproof way of getting pregnant. Hence, be sure to manage your expectations and ensure that you and your partner have emotional support throughout this journey.

Tips and Tricks

Eating well and leading a healthy lifestyle are 2 ways to help yourself to improve your chances of success, says Dr Fong. Top of the list? Quitting smoking and minimising stress. Patients who are on long-term medication should also seek the help of a doctor to see if this can be reduced or stopped completely for the time being.

At the end of the day, Dr Fong notes that age still plays a big part in fertility, due to a woman’s fertility declining from age 30, and speeding up even more at age 35. “Try and start pregnancy as soon as possible, rather than wait for you to get that promotion or that career milestone before you start trying. Age is still the biggest problem we have,” he advises.

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