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Genea explains fertility and IVF challenges

Happy family with baby after completing IVFOne of the biggest challenges that you come across when going through IVF – and conception in general – is when it isn’t successful.

It’s hard for both the people undergoing IVF, and the fertility specialists, when IVF does not quickly lead to pregnancy, despite the transfer of apparently healthy embryos.

Genea Medical Director Associate Professor Mark Bowman addresses some of the more challenging topics that arise in discussions about fertility treatment.

“The natural temptation of the women is to conclude that ‘my body must have rejected the embryo’ and with easy access to online information, it’s not hard to find a range of opinions and suggestions that can be presented as undeniable ‘facts’. The patient then asks herself – ‘well, why aren’t I doing this in my treatment?’

If only life were that simple! Firstly, many purported ‘undeniable truths’ are anything but. Many proposed treatments have not been properly proven to be successful, and in some cases, the proposed treatment causes medical risk to the woman or might actually decrease the chance of IVF working.

Recurrent implantation failure is a classic example of the challenges doctors face in guiding patients with respect to future treatments. In many cases, an apparently healthy appearing embryo may actually have a chromosome or metabolic abnormality that prevents implantation, despite being high grade. This is part of normal human biology – many eggs, sperm, and hence embryos have random anomalies that won’t lead to pregnancy, particularly as the woman or man is getting older.

So, when does a doctor decide to look instead for causes on the uterine side (or the side of the woman’s body)? Before even starting IVF? Taking this approach might lead to many invasive and unnecessary tests being undertaken.  Or after one, two – or more – unsuccessful IVF attempts?

Immune issues in the uterus lining – a popular discussion point amongst patients – probably exist but are in realty probably not very common. Additionally, the tests undertaken to diagnose an immune problem (Natural Killer (NK) cell testing) are not perfect – there is a risk of a false positive diagnosis. In other words, the test suggests the woman has a problem, but in reality she doesn’t actually have the problem. Also, not only has the immune treatment for this condition (often prednisone or equivalent immunosuppressant drugs) not been shown to assist implantation in properly conducted studies, but these drugs can have serious side effects – albeit rare – to both the woman and the fetus.

If you put all of this together, it’s not surprising that you will get a range of opinions from different Fertility Specialists. This is why you should always discuss these issues with your specialist, rather than make a conclusion from unfiltered online information.”

For more fertility questions from the Bub Hub Forum answered by Genea, check out this blog post.



This blog post is sponsored by Genea.

Genea has almost 30 years’ experience helping people achieve their dreams of a healthy baby and has sponsored this post to answer some of your fertility questions. 

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