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IVF

3-minute read

IVF, or in vitro fertilisation, is a technique used to help a woman get pregnant. It is when a human egg is fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.

IVF is used to treat infertility and some genetic problems.

Read more on when to consider IVF.

What happens during the IVF process?

During IVF, eggs are removed from the ovaries of a woman and fertilised in a laboratory with sperm provided by her partner or a donor.

One or two embryos — fertilised eggs — are implanted into the woman’s uterus (womb).

Here are the typical stages in an IVF cycle:

  • The woman’s natural menstrual cycle is switched off with daily injections or a nasal spray.
  • The woman has injections of fertility hormones to stimulate her ovaries so she produces several eggs, instead of just one.
  • When the eggs mature, they are collected using a fine needle, guided by ultrasound, under light sedation.
  • The eggs are fertilised in the laboratory with sperm provided by the woman’s partner or a donor.
  • Fertilised eggs (embryos) are grown in an incubator for a few days.
  • 1 or 2 healthy embryos are transferred into the woman’s uterus using a thin tube inserted into the vagina and cervix.
  • If an embryo successfully implants, the woman becomes pregnant. She will need to wait two weeks for a pregnancy test.
  • Any remaining healthy embryos can be frozen and stored for later use if needed.

Women who have IVF often have more than one cycle.

There are many variations to the IVF procedure. For example, sperm or eggs may be collected from a donor. In some cases, a surrogate may carry the pregnancy.

Chances of success with IVF

On average, every time a woman has a cycle of IVF, she has about a 1 in 5 chance of becoming pregnant and having a baby. That chance is higher for women younger than 35 years old, and lower for older women, decreasing with age. By age 44, the chance of success is less than 1 in 10.

Some women need up to 5 cycles of treatment to be successful, while others never fall pregnant.

Can single, lesbian or gay people use IVF?

Any Australians who are infertile can use IVF whether they are single or in a partnership.

The situation for lesbian or gay people (who may not be infertile) and same sex couples seeking IVF can vary. Following changes to the law in recent years, IVF is now accessible to lesbian couples in most parts of Australia. For information about IVF that is relevant to your own situation, talk to your doctor or a local fertility clinic.

Costs of IVF

IVF is time consuming. Repeated cycles can take an emotional and physical toll on people going through it.

Financial costs vary a lot, but each cycle of IVF may cost several thousand dollars. You can get a rebate on some IVF items from Medicare if they are medically necessary for you to get pregnant. Your private health fund may pay for other aspects of treatment. There are also the costs of medicines, tests and day surgery.

If you are considering IVF, it is important to talk to your doctor, the IVF clinic and your health fund (if you have one) to understand what you will be charged for and what you will be covered for.

You need to think about whether it is affordable for you and right for you.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019


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Need more information?

When to consider IVF

Considering IVF is a big decision to make. It is expensive, and it can be difficult and there is no guarantee of success.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

What to expect from IVF

Find out what to expect from IVF, such as how long it takes and what are the risks involved.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

A male perspective on IVF treatment | VARTA

Ben talks about the effects of IVF and coping strategies

Read more on Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority website

Breastfeeding and IVF | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Women who use IVF to try to fall pregnant may be worried about: 

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

A man's guide to going through IVF | Healthy Male

IVF is one of the more widely known forms of assisted reproductive technology — used to overcome a range of fertility issues.

Read more on Healthy Male - Andrology Australia website

IVF can increase the rates of depression, anxiety and stress

COPE's purpose is to prevent and improve the quality of life of those living with emotional and mental health problems that occur prior to and within the perinatal period.

Read more on COPE - Centre of Perinatal Excellence website

How pathology helps IVF parents get pregnant | Know Pathology Know Healthcare

For IVF parents, pathology testing is vital from fertility tests before conception to ensuring a healthy pregnancy

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Fertility treatment explained | VARTA

Understanding fertility treatment There are many types of fertility treatments available, ranging from simple interventions such as medication to help a woman ovulate, through to more complicated procedures known as assisted reproductive treatment (ART). ART, also known as assisted reproductive technology, refers to medical and scientific methods used to help people conceive. Fertility treatments are used: to treat infertility for people who can’t become pregnant, carry a pregnancy or give birth to reduce the chance of a baby inheriting a genetic disease or abnormality to preserve fertility. Types of treatment Depending on the cause of infertility, the following types of treatment may be recommended by your fertility specialist. This information provides a general overview of techniques available. Speak to your fertility clinic for more information. Ovulation induction (OI) Ovulation induction (OI) can be used if a woman is not ovulating or not ovulating regularly. It involves taking a hormone medication (tablets or injections) to stimulate ovulation. The response to the hormones is monitored with ultrasound and when the time is right, an injection is given to trigger ovulation (the release of the egg). Timing intercourse to coincide with ovulation offers the chance of pregnancy. Artificial insemination or IUI Artificial insemination, which is sometimes called intrauterine insemination (IUI), involves insertion of the male partner’s (or a donor’s) sperm into a woman’s uterus at or just before the time of ovulation. IUI can help couples with so called unexplained infertility or couples where the male partner has minor sperm abnormalities. You can use the Unexplained infertility - exploring your options guide to better understand if IUI is a suitable option for you. IUI can be performed during a natural menstrual cycle, or in combination with ovulation induction (OI) if the woman has irregular menstrual cycles. If a pregnancy is not achieved after a few IUI attempts, IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be needed. In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) During IVF, the woman has hormone injections to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. When the eggs are mature, they are retrieved in an ultrasound-guided procedure under light anaesthetic. The eggs and sperm from the male partner or a donor are placed in a culture dish in the laboratory to allow the eggs to hopefully fertilise, so embryos can develop. Three to five days later, if embryos have formed, one is placed into the woman's uterus in a procedure called embryo transfer. If there is more than one embryo, they can be frozen and used later. The IVF process: Is IVF safe? IVF is a safe procedure and medical complications are rare. But as with all medical procedures, there are some possible health effects for women and men undergoing treatment and for children born as a result of treatment. Read more about the possible health effects of IVF here. Understanding IVF success rates Clinics report success rates in different ways, so when comparing clinics’ success rates make sure you compare like with like or ’apples with apples’. Most importantly, you need to consider your own personal circumstances and medical history when you estimate your chance of having a baby with IVF. You can read more about interpreting success rates here. The chance of a live birth following IVF depends on many factors including the woman’s age, the man’s age and the cause of infertility. Research using the Australian and New Zealand Assisted Reproduction Database calculated the chance of a woman having a baby from her first cycle of IVF according to her age. The results below apply to women who used their own eggs, and it includes the use of frozen embryos produced by one cycle of IVF: Under 34: 44 per cent chance of a live birth 35-39: 31 per cent chance of a live birth 40-44: 11 per cent chance of a live birth 44 and above: one per cent chance of a live birth. Costs of IVF In Australia, Medicare and private health insurers cover some of the costs associated with IVF and ICSI but there are also substantial out-of-pocket costs. The difference between the Medicare contribution and the amount charged by the clinic is the ‘out-of-pocket cost’. These costs vary, depending on the treatment, the fertility clinic and whether a patient has reached the Medicare Safety Net threshold. You can read more about costs here.   Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) is used for the same reasons as IVF, but especially to overcome sperm problems. ICSI follows the same process as IVF, except ICSI involves the direct injection of a single sperm into each egg to hopefully achieve fertilisation. Because it requires technically advanced equipment, there are additional costs for ICSI. For couples with male factor infertility, ICSI is needed to fertilise the eggs and give them a chance of having a baby. But for couples who don’t have male factor infertility, ICSI offers no advantage over IVF in terms of the chance of having a baby. You can read more about what’s involved in 

Read more on Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority website

Fertility treatments

There are a number of fertility treatments that are available to both and your partner if you are struggling to fall pregnant.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Fertility treatment journey | VARTA

Things to consider Possible emotional effects of fertility treatments Fertility treatments are psychologically and emotionally demanding

Read more on Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority website

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