Sometimes couples are trying to have a baby but are unable to do so due to many different reasons. But for those who are unable to conceive naturally there is an option of In Vitro Fertilization.

Today on the show I had the pleasure of talking to Dr Mahadev Bhide who is an experienced gynaecologist and IVF expert. He said that the natural cycle of the ovaries in the female reproductive system is supressed and replaced with a monitored cycle when performing IVF, and to do that the ovaries which are controlled by the pituitary gland need to be quietened. An injection is then given to stimulate the eggs in the ovaries to mature. By using an ultrasound scan the ovaries are observed to check the progress to know when the eggs are mature enough to be released. Once they reach that stage the ovaries are stimulated once again just before they naturally would release the mature egg and not just one but many eggs are harvested by a very minor operation which takes about 15 minutes said Dr Bhide. He stressed that the timing in these cases is very crucial. He also added that sometimes for this operation only a sedative is enough and there might be no need to have the patient under anaesthesia. Once the eggs are taken out they are kept in an incubator along with the sperm to be fertilized. After keeping it there for 1 day the embryo is formed. Dr Bhide said that the embryo is kept in the incubator for a further 3 days before placing it into womb. Once this embryo attaches itself to the womb, the baby starts to grow.

He also said that now a days there is a new option of having a Blastocyst transfer where the embryo is allowed to grow in the incubator for 5 days instead of 3 days and this is done to be able to determine which of the embryos in the incubator are better suited and will have better chances of survival once placed in the womb. He also added that due to this option the chances of having twins is greatly reduced. Initially when this option was not available, 2 or sometimes even 3 embryos were placed in the womb so as to increase the chances of pregnancy. But due to the blastocyst transfer only 1 embryo is placed in the womb. The success of blastocyst transfer is higher than the success of transfer on the 3rd day according to Dr Bhide.

Dr Bhide gave a detailed explanation of exactly what happens in the ovaries naturally and also during IVF. He said that in normal cases the pituitary gland releases a hormone that helps one egg in the follicles of the ovaries to mature. But when undergoing IVF treatment, by manipulating the pituitary gland around 6 to 10 eggs mature at the same time and are subsequently harvested. But he also described the ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome where about 20 odd eggs may mature in the ovaries because of too much stimulation. And if that happens then it can cause serious health risks to the patient said Dr Bhide.

The entire treatment of IVF takes about 5 or 6 weeks. Also when the process of quietening the pituitary gland is being done the patient might possibly experience hot flushes or other symptoms similar to menopause. But Dr Bhide said that there is no need to worry if that happens and these symptoms usually disappear within 1 or 2 weeks.

Sometimes people don’t want to compromise in their career or they are waiting for the right time to have babies, and at times that might be too late. Also if someone is suffering from breast cancer and is undergoing treatment, this can damage the ovarian follicles and greatly reduce the chances of pregnancy, if desired, in the future. It is at times like these when the option of egg freezing which has been used in the past few years is very good according to him. Initially there was only the option of freezing the embryo and that was not something that could have been planned in advance and not many people opted for it as circumstances might change. But with egg freezing it is easier for women to wait for the right time to have a baby and also avoid complications of not being able to conceive. He said that with age the chances of success with egg freezing go down, so, earlier the better. The ideal age to freeze eggs would be 28 to 30 according to Dr Bhide.

We also spoke about the reasons for not being able to conceive in spite of not having any medical concerns. He said that at times couples are unable to conceive mainly because of stress. There might be a lot of pressure, maybe even from the family to have children and this adds to the stress. There have been cases where people have tried naturally, then undergone IVF and still had no success, but eventually when they gave up and adopted a baby they conceived naturally said Dr Bhide.

At times internet will give you hard cold facts without putting them into context according to Dr Bhide. People read up on the internet and get even more stressed about their situation. They do not understand that not everything read on the internet applies to everyone.

He also spoke about infertility and said that there are many reasons for it, including

  • Delayed age of starting
  • Smoking – can affect sperm function in men
  • Alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Side effects of some medication
  • PCOS

He said that sometimes the problems are inter related. Being overweight reduces the chances of pregnancy and sometimes this weight gain is due to PCOS. He also spoke about when a woman is unable to conceive due to any reason there is a chance of depression and that might make her more attracted towards comfort food and thus she may gain weight which in turn will make it more difficult to conceive, so it’s a vicious circle.

He spoke about the polycystic ovarian syndrome which affects many young girls. In these cases, the eggs in the ovaries are aligned in a particular way and they grow but they don’t ovulate. And so there is hardly any chance of pregnancy. There is no permanent cure for PCOS but there is an option of Ovarian Diathermy which might help with ovulation said Dr Bhide.

He gave the following tips to our viewers

  • Don’t waste time – the fertility does not last for ever
  • Freeze your eggs – as backup
  • When starting treatment talk to doctors – not relatives and friends
  • Reduce stress