Test Tube Babies: How Effective Is IVF?

Author: Dr. Helena Lim Yun Hsuen Fertility - Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

It is every couples’ dream to have a child of their own. While many have absolutely no problem conceiving, for some, it is a physically and mentally draining endeavour. For couples with subfertility, they need to be patient as it can take longer than usual for them to conceive. However, without medical intervention such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, it is highly unlikely for infertile couples to get pregnant spontaneously. 

Fertility problems could be due to factors stemming from just one partner or both. The various factors affecting fertility include several underlying health conditions, anatomical defects, medications and certain lifestyle factors. Struggling couples can seek help from fertility centres. Aside from offering personalised consultation and fertility screening, couples can also undergo IVF treatment to help them conceive.

So, what’s an IVF?

In-vitro fertilisation or IVF, is a process of fertilisation where an ovum is fertilised with a sperm cell outside the body. With over 40 years of history, this procedure is one of the oldest fertility treatments around. After fertilisation has occurred, the zygote undergoes embryo culture for around 2 to 6 days. After which, it is implanted in the same or a more fertile woman’s uterus, with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.

Ever since the first IVF procedure which took place in 1973, an estimated 5 million babies worldwide have been birthed through the procedure. It’s worth noting however that it wasn’t until the year 1978 where the first ever IVF birth occurred in Oldham, England. Despite its glorious success, like everything else in the world, there are times when IVF has failed to yield results.

What causes IVF to fail?

According to Dr Helena Lim, Fertility Specialist and Consultant Obstetric & Gynaecologist at KL Fertility Centre, the success of an IVF treatment relies on 4 important factors. They are:

  1. Age of the female partner.
  2. Period of subfertility.
  3. Quality and quantity of egg and sperm.
  4. Condition of the womb.

Dr Helena added that failing to achieve any result despite repeated IVF treatment can be depressing and mentally exhaustive for couples. However, this trying time does serve as an opportunity to better understand the personal aspects of one’s body. Beyond fertility treatment, IVF can provide information related to couples’ response to treatment, as well as egg, sperm and embryo conditions.

There is a saying about most things that are hard-earned being products of repeated failures. The same could be said about IVF. Dr Helena encourages couples not to give up or be disheartened if they fail the first time. That said, here are a few noteworthy pointers that couples can go through prior to undergoing treatment:

#1. The IVF protocol

Though it is standardised for most parts, some adjustments and personalisation are made to suit the patients’ profile. No two women are the same and therefore, personalisation will increase the success rate of IVF treatment for each patient. 

#2. IVF clinic

Most IVF clinics maintain a high degree of standards. The types of service, facilities and treatment experience varies from one another. While it is important to select clinics with good track record, you may also want to consider the overall factors involved when seeking treatment at a particular centre.

#3. The eggs 

The quality of the female eggs play a crucial role in determining the success of IVF treatment. If the egg fails to achieve a certain quality, the subsequent embryo developed would not progress into a viable or healthy pregnancy. To increase the egg’s quality, certain lifestyle changes should be made which include active weight loss, ramping up physical activities, dietary modifications as well as consumption of certain medications and/or supplements. 

#4. The sperms

Aside from the egg, we can’t deny the need for healthy and quality sperms which swim towards it. Therefore, the male partner should also do their part to ensure that the sperm cells produced are in optimum condition for increased IVF success rate.

#5. The uterus

The uterus is where the embryo grows to become a fetus before being delivered. Therefore, it makes sense to ensure that the internal environment of the womb is conducive to support the growth of a baby for 9 months. Of course you can use the services of a surrogate mother overseas but such an approach is prohibited in this country due to religious restrictions.

In conclusion, the issue of fertility is an intimate one, shared by both partners. Taking care of each other’s health and leading healthy lifestyles together is a crucial prerequisite to a successful IVF treatment. 

Hello Health Group does not give medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. 

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Review Date: November 12, 2019 | Last Modified: December 5, 2019

Dr. Helena Lim Yun Hsuen Fertility - Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

Dr Helena Lim Yun Hsuen qualified as a doctor from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1999. She obtained her specialist degree in the UK in 2006 and completed her master degree in Obstetrics & Gynaecology in the same year. She has been a Consultant in Obstetrics & Gynaecology with special interest in Fertility since then. In 2018, Dr Helena Lim received her Fellowship award from the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, UK (FRCOG). Dr Helena is especially interested in the impact of nutrition, stress and psychology on fertility. 

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