What medical conditions can IVF help treat?
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Robert Winston

Fertility expert and one of the world's pioneers of IVF and Fertility Medicine. BAFTA award-winning television presenter and Member of The House of Lords in the UK.
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Conception / IVF

What medical conditions can IVF help treat?

IVF is not, strictly speaking, a treatment for infertility. It is a means of by-passing a problem which maybe preventing a pregnancy developing. Once your particular reason has been diagnosed, if it can be, there may be many, more successful treatments better suited for your condition than IVF. That said there are certain conditions for which IVF is useful.
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In Short

Once you have had all the necessary tests, and more specific, potentially more successful treatments have been tried or ruled out, IVF may be useful for the following:

Tubal damage (that surgery has failed to treat).

Abnormal or low sperm count.

Problems with ovulation.

Endometriosis (that surgery has failed to treat).

Unexplained fertility.

Cervical or vaginal problems.

Multiple causes of infertility.

Genetic abnormalities – using preimplantation genetic diagnosis.

Medical conditions that can benefit from IVF

In strict medical terms, IVF is appropriate in the following situations:

Tubal damage and IVF treatment

If the Fallopian tubes are so badly damaged that surgery has failed to help or if the damage is so severe that surgery is not worth contemplating, then IVF is the only option because it bypasses the tubes. IVF may not be necessary when there is a relatively minor disease of the fallopian tubes. In this case, talk to your GP as tubal surgery might be more justified.

Abnormal or low sperm count and IVF treatment

If a man has a low sperm count but produces viable sperm that potentially capable of fertilising an egg, IVF is the ideal course of action. Manipulation of the sperm in the laboratory may make them more likely to be capable of fertilisation. Alternatively, sperm microinjection when a single sperm is injected directly into the egg (see ICSI) may be useful.

Problems with ovulation and IVF treatment

IVF may help where a woman’s ovaries produce eggs but do not do so regularly.

Endometriosis and IVF Treatment

For a number of women with endometriosis, IVF is useful. However, the medication required to persuade the ovaries to give up a number of eggs also increases a woman’s own natural oestrogen level, which in turn may stimulate the endometriosis, making it more severe. It is not uncommon for women to find that the symptoms of pain and irregular bleeding increase after unsuccessful IVF treatment. Endometriosis may be treated surgically and by other means, which may be more successful than IVF.

Unexplained infertility and IVF Treatment

In instances where attempts to diagnose infertility have been unsuccessful and the cause remains unexplained, IVF has good success rates. However, in older women, where unexplained infertility occurs because the ovaries are incapable of producing normal eggs, IVF has a low success rate.

Cervical or vaginal problems and IVF Treatment

When there is a problem in the cervix or severe scarring of the top of the vagina (usually the following surgery), IVF can help because the embryo is placed directly into the uterine cavity, bypassing the cervix.

IVF as a treatment for multiple causes of infertility

If there are multiple factors causing infertility, usually affecting both the man and the woman IVF is generally the most effective treatment. For example, if there is a minor sperm problem combined with a minor scarring of the fallopian tubes, IVF greatly increases the chances of fertilisation and pregnancy.

Using IVF as a treatment for couples with genetic abnormalities

For couples at high risk of having a genetically abnormal baby can benefit from IVF using preimplantation genetic diagnosis. In this instance, healthy embryos free from certain genetic defects can be selected and placed in the uterus. This treatment is also suitable for some patients with genetic or chromosomal abnormalities that cause repeated miscarriage.

The Genesis Research Trust

Despite countless breakthroughs in medical science, we still do not understand why some pregnancies will end in tragedy. For most of us, having a child of our own is the most fulfilling experience of our lives. All of us can imagine the desperation and sadness of parents who lose a baby, and the life-shattering impact that a disabled or seriously ill child has on a family.

Professor Robert Winston’s Genesis Research Trust raises money for the largest UK-based collection of scientists and clinicians who are researching the causes and cures for conditions that affect the health of women and babies.

Essential Parent is proud to support their wonderful work. You can learn more about them here.

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DISCLAIMER
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.