In the world of fertility medicine, in vitro fertilization is an absolute game changer. With more clinics opening worldwide and newer technologies developing daily (like the ability to choose the sex of your baby!), IVF has made fertility assistance increasingly accessible. However, greater awareness also makes for a greater amount of misinformation, and these erroneous beliefs (and scary-looking pictures) about the IVF process can discourage women from even considering going down that path themselves. We gathered up some of the most common IVF myths out there so we can separate fact from fiction (and prove that not every IVF cycle ends up with a Jon-and-Kate-Plus-Eight ending).
1. You'll Have to Get Daily Needle Injections
This was the truth — up until very recently, that is. New York's New Hope Fertility Center just launched a new needle-free IVF method, which promises the same success rates without any injections. Rather than needle injections, this method uses urine and saliva samples to run hormone tests as well as oral and nasal medications to stimulate the ovaries. Dr. Zaher Merhi, the director of research and development in IVF technologies at New Hope, told Fast Company that he hopes the solution will ease women's discomfort. Though the oral medication and nasal sprays don't tend to produce as many eggs as traditional injections, Dr. Merhi doesn't believe the needle-free method is any less effective. "It's not going to really affect your chances to get pregnant," Dr. Merhi said. "To us, the quality of the egg is way better than the quantity."
2. You Have to Have Plenty of Viable Eggs to Be a Candidate
Though IVF success is frequently determined by age, a technique called ovarian rejuvenation can allow women who have experienced premature ovarian failure (POF) and even menopause to potentially conceive. Using needle sticks, doctors can stimulate the follicles in dormant eggs to make them viable again. There is less of a chance for success, but this new technique has still made it possible for postmenopausal women to have IVF as an option. According to Dr. Merhi, two out of six patients he has treated with ovarian rejuvenation have had successful pregnancies through IVF.
3. You Need to Freeze Your Embryos Before Implantation
While this is true for women experiencing infertility as the result of polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, frozen embryos are not more effective than fresh embryos for all women. According to researchers from China and Vietnam, who recently published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine, there are no significant differences between women who use fresh rather than frozen embryos in rates of implantation. The findings may encourage doctors to just implant one embryo at a time rather than multiple, which comes with the risk of multiple pregnancies. Fresh embryo transfers are also 30 percent less expensive than frozen embryo transfers. The study, however, did find that fresh embryo transfers resulted in a higher risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) than women using frozen embryo transfers.
4. You Won't Be Able to Afford It
There's no denying that IVF isn't cheap. However, there is a newer procedure, minimal stimulation in vitro fertilization, or mini IVF, that is half the price of the usual IVF, as fewer doses of medication are required. A typical IVF cycle costs $15,000 on average, whereas mini IVF costs between $5,000 to 7,000 per cycle. According to Dr. Merhi, "You don't actually need as much medication to help conception since the medication doesn't create eggs; it only fosters the growth of the eggs that are already there." Mini IVF is a great option for women with lower ovarian reserves (which is more common for women over 35), but this alternative doesn't make sense when you need a large amount of eggs. Also worth noting: if you don't conceive after a few cycles, the costs can actually be greater in the long run.
5. You'll Definitely Get Pregnant
The most disheartening truth of IVF is that, despite all of the new technologies being developed, there is still no guarantee that you'll become pregnant. IVF success rates vary widely based on a number of factors, but the average rate of success is 41 to 43 percent for people under 35 and 33 to 36 percent for people from ages 35 to 37. Success rates are still highly dependent on the age of the patient giving the egg, as egg quality begins to decline significantly after 35, but with each new development, IVF becomes an option for a wider range of women.
There are many factors that can impact fertility, but with IVF, little can be done on the patient's part to ensure success. "Patients can contribute to success [of IVF] by doing nothing — being relaxed and not stressing out about the treatment helps," Dr. Merhi says. "A lot of the time, it makes it very hard psychologically when patients are stressed out. As far as other things, the recommendation is just to avoid smoking, drinking and alcohol and be generally healthy."