IVF is something we’ve noticed people are talking about more. Be it at lunch, in the office, over brunch at the weekend when catching up with friends, or on the internet, we’re chatting babies, motherhood and pregnancy. It’s a conversation which only gets louder as you reach your thirties and all that next stage life stuff starts circulating in your brain. However, sometimes the road to becoming a mother isn’t as easy as deciding to just get pregnant. Which is why we’re asking Declan Keane, Director and Senior Clinical Embyologist at ReproMed, one of Ireland’s leading fertility clinics, some frequently asked questions about undergoing IVF. Established in 2009 in Kilkenny and Dublin, it combines cutting-edge technologies with a patient-centred approach to help people realise their dream of creating a family of their own. Their multi-disciplinary team of medical professionals and complementary therapists works tirelessly to bring the best possible outcomes to you.
How many months of ‘trying’ should we give before consulting with a fertility specialist?
This is dependent on the female’s age and the individual couple. If you are under 30 years of age, with no obvious indicators of infertility, it would be recommended to see a specialist after a year of trying, if you are over 30 then we would recommend within 6 months. If you would merely like ‘peace of mind’ before you start trying to conceive you could have some basic fertility tests done with your GP or a fertility clinic like ReproMed.
How much money should I have saved for my first round of IVF?
Each case is different, but usually the cost of IVF would fall between €4,500 – €5,000 including treatment, aftercare etc.
Is there an ideal weight/BMI for IVF?
At ReproMed we think that it is important to enhance a couple’s natural fertility potential before they make the decision to move on to fertility treatments. Managing weight can play a big part in this and in order to optimize your chances of achieving a pregnancy, with or without IVF, we suggest aiming for a BMI of between 25 and 30.
How long does it usually take from the initial consultation to pregnancy test? And can you tell me about the steps in between?
The process in total would usually take about 4 weeks. Please allow for any diagnostics that may be required in advance and making lifestyle changes based on diagnostic results, which may improve your chances of pregnancy.
The first step is a consultation with Declan Keane, our director and Senior Clinical Embryologist, and with one of our Gynecologists. They will review your medical history, discuss what the most suitable course of treatment for you will be and recommend if there are any useful diagnostic tests you may need prior to starting treatment. Once we know you are physically and mentally ready to go ahead with treatment we prepare a medication regime for you.
Two weeks are taken to use fertility drugs (naturally occurring hormones) to stimulate the female’s ovaries to recruit more than one egg from the multiple available eggs in her ovaries each month. Another week is used to fertilize her eggs and culture her embryos in the IVF lab.
Then after embryo transfer she waits for two weeks until she tests with a home pregnancy test.
I had a cyst removed from my ovaries years ago. Will this affect my egg count and chances of successfully conceiving?
Yes, it can, but we will determine this by doing an assessment of your ovarian reserve (AMH blood test and follicle count on an ultrasound scan) as part of the diagnostics prior to starting treatment.
From what I understand, most women are implanted with multiple embryos and twins are a possibility if the procedure is successful. What happens if 3-4 embryos implant? Is it legal in this country to remove one?
It is not legal to have fetal reduction in Ireland, it is also not standard practice in Ireland to transfer more than 3 embryos at a time. In fact, elective single embryo transfer is most common. If this is a concern for you it would be best practice to go for an elective single embryo transfer. We consider our patients’ wishes very carefully and our clinical team will give you all the information to help you make the right decision for you.
An obscure and devastating illness runs through the male side of my mother’s family. Can Irish clinics test for fetal abnormalities before implantation?
This service is known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and we offer this treatment option in association with our affiliate clinics abroad. More information on this and all of our services is available at www.repromed.ie.
How should I prep my body for its first round of IVF? What kind of relaxation methods and exercises should I embrace?
A healthy balanced diet and fitness routine are very important. It is also recommended to reduce, if not eliminate, alcohol and to quit smoking entirely. A lot of our patients have reported that complementary therapies including hypnotherapy and acupuncture have helped them relax during this time and we can recommend a number of different holistic therapists as a supplement to your treatment.
Are there any foods I should avoid during IVF?
There is no particular food type to avoid, however it is recommended to have an overall, healthy diet and try to avoid fried and fast food. This in turn will also ensure you stay within the recommended BMI, improving your overall fertility. We recommend folic acid, Omega 3, CoQ10, a good source of vitamins and minerals for women. For men CoQ10 and Omega 3 are recommended.
It can be an emotional process with all those extra hormones. I get very bad PMS as it is. Should I arrange some leave from my job to focus on me and my body?
It is important for you to be relaxed before and during a treatment cycle. If it is possible for you to arrange leave where possible around the time of your cycle it would be beneficial in order to facilitate attending appointments and keeping you as stress-free as possible during this important time. That said, we endeavor to keep your life as normal as possible and will support you as you try to balance both work and fertility treatment.
What are the side effects of all the hormonal injections?
Most common side effects, reported by women undergoing IVF treatment, would be hormonal; headaches, tiredness, mood swings etc. However everybody is different, and the majority of our patients have had no side effects whatsoever as we use relatively low doses of potent fertility medication.
Should my partner and I refrain from intercourse during IVF?
It would be recommended to avoid intercourse during the IVF cycle since your ovaries are being stimulated and intercourse, for some women can be a little uncomfortable. If you do not find this to be a problem it will not negatively impact on your treatment.
What kind of advice/support should patients seek to ensure mental wellness during IVF?
Mindfulness is important, allowing time for yourself and relaxation. Some patients are recommended to seek counselling ahead of treatment as this can be a stressful time on your relationship. Fertility support groups exist in Ireland and ReproMed facilitates its own support group online.
I’m really awful around needles and the thoughts of self-injecting gives me a faint feeling. How can a patient overcome that?
Before having treatment at ReproMed you will meet with one of our fertility nurses/midwife specialists who will go through your medication with you and teach you how to use them.
If you really aren’t comfortable a partner could administer the injection. A lot of patients find that the anticipation is worse and they are overall very comfortable with the process. The needles involved are really quite small and thin and the reward by far outweighs the slight discomfort of the administration of these medications.
Visit ReproMed.ie for more information.