If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while now and have no success, the term in-vitro fertilization (IVF) might seem very appealing.
From its early experimental stages in the 20th century to its present-day status as a mainstream medical procedure, IVF has undeniably revolutionized the field of reproductive medicine.
The ability to fertilize human eggs outside the body and transfer said embryos into the uterus has opened doors for people who were previously met with disappointment and heartache when trying to conceive (TTC).
That said, even with its well-documented history of success for folks of all ages and races, you still might not be ready to commit to IVF. Or perhaps IVF isn't in the cards for you due to reasons unique to your living situation.
And that’s completely okay.
As the popularity of IVF continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to recognize that the path to parenthood is a deeply personal one, and may not necessarily begin with this complex clinical procedure.
Ahead, we share six reasons why IVF might not be the answer for everyone trying to conceive — and an alternative to helping you achieve your pregnancy goals.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended as medical advice.
For Starters, What Is IVF?
Few advancements in assisted reproductive technologies (ART) have garnered as much attention and acclaim as IVF.
For the uninitiated, IVF is a medical procedure used to assist individuals and couples who are experiencing fertility challenges in getting pregnant.
Time-traveling back to Science Class, the term "in-vitro" refers to a process that takes place outside the body.
In the context of IVF, this involves fusing an egg and sperm in a Petri dish in a laboratory setting to create a zygote. The fertilized cell is then allowed to multiply and grow into an embryo.
If viable, the embryo is implanted in the uterus, developing into a full-fledged baby. Voila! You’re now successfully pregnant.
The History of IVF: Tracing Back to Its Origins
So, how did IVF come about?
This medical practice has only been on the fertility scene for a few short decades. In fact, the first IVF baby named Louise Joy Brown was only born in 1978.
The parents of Louise were a UK-based couple who tried to conceive naturally for nine years without success. As the wife had blocked fallopian tubes, they turned to IVF as “a new experimental technique” to overcome the physiological cause of their infertility.
Since then, this widely practiced ART procedure has emerged as a beacon of hope for countless folks struggling with fertility issues. Safe to say, IVF offers an alternative pathway to parenthood that was once considered unattainable.
However, in our eagerness to embrace this remarkable medical advancement, it's essential to strike a balance between celebrating its successes and acknowledging that IVF might not be suitable for everyone.
Is IVF Suitable for Everyone? The Answer: Maybe Not
From the sky-high costs to the time commitment needed for IVF, we share six reasons why this fertility treatment might not work out for all TTC folks.
1. Not Everyone Will Successfully Get Pregnant With IVF
Did you know that IVF doesn’t guarantee a 100% success rate?
The statistics are starkly clear in a recent 2022 study published in the Journal of Andrology on the heels of a surge in IVF interest.
The researchers analyzed a staggering 22,000+ IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) cycles and found that the success rate of such ART procedures was only about 20-30%.
2. The Emotional Rollercoaster Isn’t for the Faint of Heart
Not everyone can ride the emotional rollercoaster that is IVF.
From the impatience of waiting for your first appointment to arrive (no thanks to the long waiting time!) to the anxiety surrounding your first embryo transfer to the constant worry if you’ve succeeded during your two-week wait to the indescribable joy of a positive pregnancy test…or the crushing disappointment if it’s negative, only to do it all over again.
Rarely will anyone make it through the emotional highs and lows of IVF unscathed. Not to mention the emotional toll it takes on your relationship with your partner.
Related article: If you need help reconnecting with your partner, read our post on how to keep the spark alive when trying to conceive.
3. Not Everyone Can Cope With the Invasiveness of IVF
No one is ever prepared for how invasive IVF can be, from start to finish.
For people who ovulate, you really do get the short end of the IVF stick, as there are multiple shots and injections coming your way — think blood tests during your fertility checkup 😳
Depending on which type of fertility drugs your specialist prescribes, you might also have to brace yourself for ovulation stimulants like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) injections.
And the worst part? You’ll have to do these injections daily for 7-12 days 😣
Not to forget the “trigger shot” for egg maturation and the extraction on egg retrieval day. Even after the embryo transfer, you might need to take certain hormonal injections like hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) to optimize your conception chances.
4. Not Everyone Has the Time for IVF
Besides its invasiveness, IVF can be super time-consuming for modern TTC folks.
Like the Korean 10-step skincare routine, IVF also comes with its own laboriously long 10 steps from beginning to end:
- Ovarian Stimulation: The IVF process begins with administering fertility medications to stimulate your ovaries, encouraging them to produce multiple mature eggs.
- Monitoring: The progress of ovarian stimulation is closely monitored through blood tests and ultrasound examinations to determine the optimal timing for egg retrieval.
- Egg Retrieval (aka Oocyte Retrieval): Once the eggs have matured, you’ll have to undergo minor surgery to retrieve the eggs from your ovaries. Your doctor will use a thin needle that’s guided by ultrasound imaging.
- Sperm Collection: On the same day as egg retrieval or using a previously collected sample, sperm is collected from your partner or a sperm donor.
- Fertilization: The collected eggs and sperm are then combined in a Petri dish so fertilization can take place. Depending on the cirumstances, your doctor may recommend injecting a single sperm into an egg (aka ICSI) to facilitate fertilization.
- Embryo Culture: Fertilized eggs develop into embryos over the next few days while closely monitored in a controlled environment.
- Embryo Selection: Embryologists (highly trained healthcare professionals) assess embryo quality to select the most viable ones for transfer into the human body. They will take into account factors such as cell division rate and egg appearance.
- Embryo Transfer: One or more embryos are transferred into your uterus using a thin catheter to achieve pregnancy.
- Luteal Phase Support: Hormonal medications, like progesterone, may be given to you to support your uterine lining and promote embryo implantation.
- Pregnancy Test: A pregnancy test is typically conducted about 10-14 days after the embryo transfer to determine if implantation and pregnancy have successfully occurred.
It's important to note that not everyone will go through each of these steps in the same way. IVF protocols can vary based on your medical history, age, and other factors.
What’s more, some TTC folks may opt for additional techniques. Think preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) that involves screening embryos for genetic disorders before transfer.
Whichever the case, IVF doesn’t happen overnight.
You’ll also need to factor in the time taken to attend the appointments and go for the necessary tests and medical procedures. This would mean taking time off work if you’re currently trying for a baby while being employed.
And we all know how precious paid time off can be!
5. Not Everyone Can Afford IVF
The costs of IVF can be a significant barrier for many people. Here are several reasons why not everyone can afford this fertility treatment:
- High treatment costs: IVF involves a series of complex medical procedures, laboratory processes, and specialized equipment. These factors contribute to the overall cost of the treatment, making IVF one of the more expensive fertility options available compared to others like IVI (intravaginal insemination).
- Multiple treatment cycles: Success rates for IVF can vary, and it often takes multiple treatment cycles to achieve a successful pregnancy. Each cycle incurs additional costs, including medications and medical procedures.
- Lack of insurance coverage: While some insurance plans may offer partial coverage for fertility treatments, many don’t cover the full cost of IVF. This leaves TTC folks responsible for a substantial portion of the expenses.
- Out-of-pocket expenses: Even with insurance coverage, there are often out-of-pocket expenses, including deductibles, co-payments, and medication costs. These expenses can add up quickly and become a financial burden for you and your partner.
- Medication costs: Fertility medications used in IVF, such as gonadotropins and hormones, can be expensive. These medications are typically self-administered through injections and can significantly contribute to the overall cost of treatment.
- Additional services: Some IVF treatments may require extra services, such as preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) or donor gametes (eggs or sperm), which can further increase your bills.
- Geographical disparities: The cost of IVF can vary based on the location and specific fertility clinic chosen. IVF expenses may be even more substantial in areas with a higher cost of living.
- Income level & employment status: How much you and your partner earn can significantly influence your ability to afford IVF. Those with lower salaries may find it particularly challenging to fork out for expensive fertility treatments.
- Limited access to affordable care: In some regions or countries, access to cost-effective fertility care, including IVF, may be limited. This can be due to a lack of available clinics, specialized medical professionals, or government support. For instance, “postcode lottery” is a very real yet unfair phenomenon in the U.K. where your residential postcode will determine how much IVF subsidies you get (see next section).
Due to these factors, the financial burden of IVF can be overwhelming for many TTC folks. Some may have to explore alternative fertility options — more on this later.
6. Not Everyone Qualifies for IVF
Credit: Ministry of Health Singapore
On a related note, not everyone qualifies for IVF because of certain reasons:
- Postcode lottery in U.K.: Technically, people with ovaries under 40 years old are allowed three fully funded IVF cycles from the NHS (National Health Service, a government-funded health board in the U.K.). However, depending on where you live, you may get fewer than three subsidized cycles.
- An unhealthy BMI: If your body mass index (BMI) doesn’t fall within the recommended range for getting pregnant, you may not qualify for IVF. BMI limits can vary across countries and fertility clinics, so it’s best to check with your clinic of choice.
- Age restrictions: TTC folks above a certain age are not qualified for IVF subsidies. For example, you are not eligible for government support in Singapore if you’re over 40 years old.
It’s Okay To Pursue Other Paths to Parenthood That Don’t Involve IVF
While IVF offers a glimmer of hope to many, it's not a universal solution, and that's perfectly okay.
Perhaps you aren’t ready to commit to a fertility treatment as invasive and time-consuming as IVF. Or maybe you can’t afford it at the moment. It could also be that your BMI or age is stopping you from giving IVF a shot.
No matter your reasons, you don’t have to give up your dream of parenthood if IVF doesn’t work out for you. Because there are other ways to get pregnant.
Case in point: twoplus’ home fertility aids have helped many TTC couples get pregnant without IVF. (Read our success stories to learn more ❤️)
twoplus Applicator Extra
The twoplus Applicator Extra is an easy-to-use sperm syringe — think of it as the at-home version of IVI, a close relative of IVF. It works well with both ejaculated and donated sperm for self-insemination anytime, anywhere!
twoplus Sperm Guide
The twoplus Sperm Guide is a novel home fertility aid. It’s ideal for couples who want to get pregnant while retaining skin-to-skin contact. It minimizes semen backflow and keeps sperm near the cervix after sex.
For best results, use our at-home fertility aids on repeat during your fertile window. Not sure when your fertile period is? Find out the answer here.