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IVF myths and misconceptions 

In vitro fertilization (IVF) can be a source of hope for many people facing fertility issues — it’s a powerful treatment that can open the doors to parenthood for many. However, there is so much information about IVF online and in our culture; it can often be hard to sort the fact from the fiction.

In this article, we will explore the myths and misconceptions about IVF to help you determine if it is the best next step for you on your fertility journey.

Key takeaways

  • There are many myths circulating online and in social circles about IVF.
  • IVF isn’t usually the first or only choice for those experiencing infertility.
  • IVF does not guarantee success.
  • You can have IVF and not have twins or triplets.
  • IVF might be right for you even if you’re not infertile.
  • Many factors influence IVF success.

What is IVF?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a form of assisted reproduction technology. IVF involves the retrieval of eggs directly from the ovaries and moving them to a laboratory where the sperm is introduced before the fertilized embryo is implanted back into the uterus to hopefully create a pregnancy.

IVF came about initially to help infertile couples have babies when there was a blockage in the fallopian tube, which meant that the sperm would be unable to reach the egg in order to fertilize it. Now, it’s used to treat a myriad of fertility issues, including male-factor infertility, low egg supply, and poor embryo quality.

Learn more about the IVF process, and whether this is the right choice for you.

Here are some common myths and misconceptions about IVF — and the truth behind them.

Myth: IVF is the first (or only) choice if you’re experiencing infertility.

Truth: There are many fertility treatment options available that may be more appropriate or less invasive. There also may be less expensive options that are worth exploring before going down the route of IVF, which can cost upwards of $12,000 per attempt.

This is especially true for specific medical issues that may be impacting your fertility. For example, medications can be prescribed which may be able to improve sperm quality or induce ovulation

There are options such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), a type of fertility treatment that encourages pregnancy by placing a prepared sample of good-quality sperm close to the egg for fertilization. IUI might be advised for those:

  • Experiencing unexplained infertility
  • With a history of ovulation issues
  • Using donor or frozen sperm
  • With mild male-factor infertility

IUI is a far cheaper option than IVF. Depending on your diagnosis, you may try one or multiple cycles of IUI before moving to IVF.

Learn more about IUI for male infertility.

Additionally, there may be simple lifestyle changes to try and supplements that you could take to improve your fertility. For example, diet, exercise, smoking, sleep, and more can influence your sperm health, and optimizing these factors can help you conceive naturally.

Learn more about supplements to support male fertility.

Myth: Doing IVF guarantees a pregnancy.

Truth: Success rates with IVF vary a lot due to a wide range of factors. There are, in fact, no fertility treatments that can guarantee a pregnancy. It is important to bear this in mind when thinking about IVF: it can take time, repeated cycles, and money, and this rollercoaster can exert an emotional toll on your life and relationships.

There are many factors that can influence IVF success, including:

  • The age of both partners
  • The sperm count and quality of the male partner
  • The female partner’s medical history and uterine health
  • The overall health of both partners, including body weight and comorbidities

A fertility specialist, such as a reproductive endocrinologist, can talk you through the steps you might need to take to increase your chances of IVF being successful.

Myth: IVF causes you to have multiple births.

Truth: It used to be the case that IVF involved the transfer of multiple embryos at the same time to increase the chances of success. This could lead to multiple pregnancies being successful and fueled the idea that IVF always ends in twins or triplets.

However, in 2023, single embryo transfer (that is, trying pregnancy with just one embryo at a time) is the gold standard. This is thanks to technological advancements which have made it easier to identify which embryo will have the best chance at survival, such as embryo quality grading and embryo genetic testing.

Embryos created with IVF are still more likely than naturally created embryos to “split,” resulting in identical twins. But the chance of multiples with single embryo transfer IVF is only about 1.6%, according to a study of nearly 1 million IVF cycles.

Myth: IVF is only for infertile couples.

Truth: There are a number of reasons why someone with no fertility issues might consider undergoing IVF. Here are a few of those possible reasons:

  • Eggs from people over 35 have an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities. IVF allows for the selection of high quality embryos as well as genetic testing prior to implantation, so it may be a way to reduce the risk of miscarriage or genetic disorder for those trying for a baby at a later age.
  • Preimplantation genetic testing may also be used if there are risks of hereditary diseases in the family. By testing embryos created with IVF, couples can choose to transfer one that doesn’t carry the hereditary disease. This may be used even if a couple isn’t experiencing infertility.
  • IVF may be the only way for some couples to fall pregnant if the couples live apart or are on military deployment, and cannot be home to try to conceive during ovulation windows.
  • IVF may be the answer for same-sex couples to fall pregnant using donor eggs and surrogate, or donor sperm and reciprocal IVF (in which one female partner provides the egg, and the other female partner carries the pregnancy).

Myth: IVF is effective at any age.

Truth: The success of IVF relies on the quality of the eggs and sperm, both requried to create a healthy embryo. With age, the number and quality of eggs or sperm a person declines.

IVF is a great option for older people who want to try for a baby, but it’s not a silver bullet. If someone has no remaining viable eggs, or has gone through menopause already, IVF may not be an effective option for them. Similarly, if sperm quality is very poor due to age, even powerful techniques such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection may not be able to create a healthy pregnancy.

See how paternal age affects IVF success rates.

Myth: IVF requires bed rest.

Truth: There are very few activities you can’t do while undergoing IVF. Your care team may advise against vigorous activities such as HIIT for the parent who hopes to become pregnant, because the ovaries are producing multiple eggs and are therefore especially heavy and prone to ovarian torsion. However, mild exercise is allowed and even encouraged during an IVF cycle.

After an egg retrieval, IVF patients can resume normal activities and work within 1–3 days. An egg retrieval typically involves anesthesia, so a patient may feel slightly groggy afterwards.

After an embryo transfer, there’s no reason to limit activity. In fact, some studies show that too much bed rest can actually lower your success with IVF, as it may prevent normal fluctuations in blood flow and heart rate. IVF patients should return to normal activities after the transfer, ensuring they get an adequate amount of sleep and listening to their bodies.

If the IVF cycle is successful, the pregnancy should continue in the same way any other pregnancy would — avoid heavy lifting, but movement is okay and can help prepare the body for a healthy pregnancy.

When in doubt, ask a specialist

Many myths are circulating about IVF. If you have questions, talk to your fertility specialist to ensure you’re making the best decision without having your ideas clouded by any misinformation.

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