The process can use eggs and sperm from the couple themselves, or these can be sourced from a donor
ONE of the techniques used to help women with fertility problems who are struggling to have a baby is in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
But what does process involve and who qualifies for the treatment on the NHS?
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The process involves removing an egg from a womans ovaries and fertilising them using sperm in a laboratory.
The fertilised egg, also known as an embryo, is transferred back into a womans womb to grow.
The process can use eggs and sperm from the couple themselves, or these can be sourced from a donor.
There are six main stages of IVF:
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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)recommends in its fertility guidelines that IVF should be offered to:
Those who have been recommended by NICE for NHS-funded IVF in England will then have to be approved by localClinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who can have stricter criteria.
These requirements can include:
If a woman doesnt qualify for IVF on the NHS, treatment is available at a private clinic.
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Costs can vary depending on the clinic, but one cycle can be up to 5,000 or more.
There may be additional costs for medicines, consultations and tests.
You can contact some private clinics without seeing your GP first, but some require a referral.
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The success rate can depend on a number of factors, including the age of the woman and the cause of their infertility (if it has been determined).
The younger the woman, the more likely it is that IVF will be successful, and factors such as avoiding alcohol, caffeine and smoking can improve your chances too.
In 2010, the percentage of women who had IVF and later had a live birth were:
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Going through the process of IVF can be both physically and emotionally draining for couples, and often counselling is advised to help provide support.
Some women experience side effects like headaches and hot flushes from medication using during the treatment.
In a number of cases, women can end up having twins or triplets due to IVF, which can be dangerous for the mother and babies.
There is also the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), where too many eggs develop in the ovaries.
Ectopic pregnancies can happen too, which is when the embryo develops in the fallopian tubes instead of the womb.
A study from a leading fertility centre found over two thirds of women confessed they completely stopped having sex after embryo insertion due to being scared that sexual activity could harm their chances of a successful pregnancy.
The study of 200 couples at IVF Cube found 63 per cent experiencing a drop in the quality of their sex lives and intimacy in their relationship.
The centres fertility expert Dr Hana Visnova is calling on couples to ignore old wives tale advice to avoid sex after embryo insertion and to enjoy sex fully during the whole process of IVF treatment.
She said: Theres still so much taboo when it comes to IVF and sex.
Its not hard to find online fertility forums devoted to the subject, and often filled with conflicting advice, which only serves to add to the confusion and misinformation.
The important thing to remember is that sexual activity cannot harm an embryo.
Meanwhile Dr Robert King, lecturer in applied psychology, suggested that the female orgasm can increase fertility by up to 15 per cent.
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