It's never the first step
IVF is never the first step in the treatment of infertility. Instead, it's usually reserved for cases in which other methods such as fertility drugs, surgery and artificial insemination haven't worked. When it comes to infertility, IVF may be an option if you or your partner have been diagnosed with:
- Low sperm counts
- Problems with the uterus or fallopian tubes
- Problems with ovulation
- Antibody problems that harm sperm or eggs
- The inability of sperm to penetrate or survive in the cervical mucus
- An unexplained fertility problem
A woman's age is a major factor in the success of IVF for any couple. For example, a woman who is under the age of 35 and undergoes IVF has almost a 40 percent chance of having a baby, while a woman over age 40 has only an 11 percent chance. However, the Centers for Disease Control recently found that the success rate is increasing in every age group as the techniques are refined and doctors are becoming more experienced.
You will increase your odds of having multiples
To boost the odds of success with IVF, it's common to transfer two to four embryos at a time. But this means the woman could become pregnant with twins, triplets or even quadruplets. Carrying multiples also raises the risk of miscarriage, anemia and high blood pressure. It also makes premature birth more likely. Couples undergoing IVF should discuss these issues with their fertility specialist.
It's expensive and often not covered by insurance
Undergoing IVF can be expensive: the average cycle costs just over $12,000. This price varies depending on where you live, the amount of medications you're required to take, the number of IVF cycles you undergo and the amount your insurance company will pay toward the procedure. You should thoroughly investigate your insurance company's coverage of IVF and ask for a written statement of your benefits. Although some states have enacted laws requiring insurance companies to cover at least some of the costs of infertility treatment, many states haven't.
Also, be aware that some carriers will pay for infertility drugs and monitoring, but not for the cost of IVF or other artificial reproductive technology. The National Infertility Association publishes a booklet called the "Infertility Insurance Advisor," which provides tips on reviewing your insurance benefits contract.
But it can work
Worldwide, more than 3 million babies have been born through in vitro fertilization. And success rates are growing every year. In 2007, pregnancy rates per IVF cycle ranged from 10 percent for women ages 43-44 to 46 percent for women under 35.