IVF is used to treat a range of fertility problems, including unexplained infertility. But how do you know if you fall in to the category of having fertility problems? Your GP can answer some of your basic fertility questions and give you some tests but at some point, if you do have fertility issues, you may need to seek the help of a fertility specialist and decide whether you need IVF to help you have a baby.
Around 1 in 7 people in the UK need help to have a baby. Generally, it is recommended that you see a fertility specialist if:
- You’ve been having regular, unprotected intercourse for one year (or six months if the female partner is over 35) and you have not become pregnant
- You are over 35. As women get older, they have fewer eggs available each month for ovulation, and also a deterioration in egg quality. This means that the likelihood of ovulating a chromosomally normal egg each month is significantly lower than in women in their 20’s and early 30’s. It is estimated that even in young women, approximately half of all eggs have chromosomal abnormalities. This increases to around 90% as a woman reaches her early to mid-forties. If an egg is chromosomal abnormal then it is unlikely to make an embryo or if it does the baby will have a condition such as Down’s Syndrome. When recurrent pregnancy loss is related to chromosomal abnormalities, IVF with Pre-implantation Genetic Screening could be a likely option
- The woman has irregular or painful periods or a history of abdominal or pelvic surgery
- you have a prior history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Diseases such as chlamydia can result in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, causing pelvic scarring and potentially blocked fallopian tubes
- You’ve had 2 or more miscarriages, since this can indicate that there may be a problem which prevents your embryos from implanting
- You have experienced early menopause or premature ovarian failure
- The man has a history of low sperm count, poor motility (the sperm doesn't swim or move quickly), or abnormal morphology (the shape of his sperm cells are irregular)
- You have had cancer Treatment as chemotherapy or radiation can permanently damage your reproductive system.
- You are extremely underweight or overweight. Excessive weight can result in overproduction of estrogen, which can act in the same way as the birth control pill – actually preventing pregnancy. Being underweight can result in a lack of estrogen, potentially disrupting the menstrual cycle and compromising fertility.
- You smoke or your alcohol consumption is high. Smoking can have a potentially harmful effect on the reproductive system. Women whose alcohol intake is high have been found to have higher rates of menstrual problems which can prevent conception.
- You are at risk of passing on a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis. Then you may have IVF with Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis.