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Embarking on Your IVF Journey: Steps on the Path

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By IMAGE
10th Nov 2023
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Embarking on Your IVF Journey: Steps on the Path

If you're considering IVF, here's what to expect along the journey.

If you are having trouble getting pregnant, you are not alone. More and more couples are accessing fertility treatment and to date, 12 million babies have been born through IVF worldwide. 

Across Ireland, thousands of couples every year will walk this path and it is incredible to know that thousands of babies will be born with the help of IVF. If you are on this journey, or even think you might need to be, we are here to give you all the information you need and let you know that you can do this. 

IVF is a very exciting technology and to get all the information and updates, we sat down with the fertility experts at Waterstone Clinic to walk us through it step by step and get an in-depth understanding of this incredible science. 

Data and decisions

Many readers might have already had fertility assessments and know they need the assistance of IVF to build their families, but for the benefit of anyone who is at the very beginning of this road, the first step is having some fertility tests reviewed by a specialist. 

The fertility clinic team will guide you as to which tests are the most helpful to have. Your specialist fertility doctor will put the information from your tests and your partner’s together with the information from a fertility-focused ultrasound scan. The fertility consultant can then give you all the information about your specific fertility needs, what your options are, and what type of assistance you might need, if any, to get you closer to building the family of your dreams. 

“This meeting is designed to give you information so you can make decisions that are right for you”, explains Dr Eithne Lowe, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine at Waterstone Clinic Dublin. “It’s a great opportunity to ask us all your questions and get advice. I can explain the process of treatment, and your personal chance of success based on your fertility tests. You can take all that information and consider it, discuss it, and make decisions”. 

Scientific magic

Through our discussions, the team explain the process and it breaks down into four main stages. The first stage is the most well-known – taking hormone injections – which lead to a procedure where the eggs are collected. The eggs are fertilised in the laboratory to develop into embryos, and the embryos can then be transferred to the uterus. 

The IVF Process, courtesy of Waterstone Clinic

“We guide everyone through the process” says Martina Kelly, fertility nurse specialist at Waterstone Clinic. “We have a specific meeting to go through every single detail of the IVF cycle and show you how to administer the medications. They’re so much easier than you might think.” 

The science behind the medication is fascinating. The goal of the medication is to stimulate the ovaries to develop and mature a much larger number of eggs than they would naturally. Those eggs are taken out of the ovaries in an egg collection procedure and they are brought to the laboratory where the embryologists start their truly fantastic scientific work.  

The work in the lab is meticulous and magical. When the eggs are collected, they are brought to the laboratory to be fertilised with sperm. This can be done either with a traditional IVF procedure (where the sperm and eggs are mixed and left to fertilise) or with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) a specialised procedure where each mature egg is injected with a single sperm. 

Over the next few days, the fertilised eggs develop into embryos under the watchful care of the embryologists. Dr Lowe tells me about the Embryoscope incubator, an incredible piece of technology they use in the Waterstone Clinic lab to incubate and monitor the embryos. It takes high resolution images of the embryo, which are compiled into a video for the embryologists to review and inspect throughout its development and it assists their decision making. 

When the embryos have developed to the right stage, they can be prepared for transfer back to the uterus. If you have additional embryos, what happens? “We have a very experienced embryology team, and they are specialists in freezing. It might sound simple, but advanced freezing has been a complete game changer for IVF” explains Dr Lowe. “We were at the forefront of this technology in Ireland, and we are so proud of our success rates. It means that patients need less treatment: they can have the same success with frozen transfers as fresh transfers. We can build entire families from one cycle of IVF”. 

Once the embryo is transferred, there is a two week wait before your pregnancy test and this can be the hardest part of the cycle. You will be excited, anxious, and it will probably feel like the longest two weeks of your life. 

“Some patients might feel they need to avoid doing anything during these two weeks”, says Dr Lowe, “but it. is a good idea live your life as normally as you can. Do things you enjoy, spend time with your partner and your friends. It can be difficult to wait all that time, so having plans will help”. 

Going through the process

Asking about supports, I was surprised at the range of them available. There are so many resources direct from the Clinic, from day-to-day guidance from the nursing team, information and education resources on a dedicated patient platform, counselling support, wellness resources and social media support. Everyone wants you to feel confident, informed and supported. 

What can someone do who is preparing for IVF? Should you overhaul your lifestyle? “Not at all” explains Martina Kelly. “The best advice I can give you as your nurse is to look after yourself. You don’t need to make huge changes. Take your folic acid, try to eat well, get out into the air – it’ll be exercise but also good for relaxation. Just take care of yourself the way you would take care of your friends, you deserve that care. Look after yourself and look after your partner, remember the love that started it all!”

If you are thinking of, or about to embark on this process, we wish you the most heartfelt luck on your journey. We hope this information is helpful and encouraging.  If IVF is recommended to you, know that there are so many others on that same path and the entire team of experts is behind you.  

We know you can do it.  

The experts at Waterstone Clinic are always available to offer advice on 0818 333 310 or [email protected] . For more, head to our IMAGE Talks Fertility page