THE FACTS ON IVF
LONGING FOR A child hild can cloud ld your head like a rainy day. When you can’t get pregnant, every second woman seems to be pregnant or pushing a pram. Pregnant friends become hesitant – should or shouldn’t they share their good news with you? Men also struggle with infertility and can feel insecure and inadequate. You may be thinking about IVF (in-vitro or artificial fertilisation) but what are the risks, how much will it cost, how will you cope if the treatments are unsuccessful – and what will happen if you end up with triplets? Leading fertility specialist Dr Merwyn Jacobson, at the Sandton Vitalab fertility clinic in Johannesburg, gives his advice on what you need to know about IVF.
WHO CAN HAVE IVF?
“IVF treatment is available to couples or women who are having difficulty conceiving.”
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
“As with all medical procedures, there are risks that patients need to be made aware of – the most widely noted risk of IVF treatment is a multiple pregnancy. Other less common risks associated with
undergoing an IVF treatment could be ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and complications at egg retrieval, such as bleeding or infection.”
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
“IVF treatment varies in cost due to the technology, treatment and medication used within a cycle of treatment. This means that it’s individualised for each patient. “Typically, an IVF cycle will range from R55 000 to R80 000 in private practice, which may be more than it costs in academic practice.”
DO MEDICAL AIDS COVER EVEN A PERCENTAGE OF THESE COSTS?
“Unfortunately, the medical aid companies in South Africa currently do not cover fertility treatments such as IVF, with the exception of Camaf (Chartered Accountants Medical Aid Fund), which makes a contribution.”
DO STATE HOSPITALS (ACADEMIC TRAINING HOSPITALS) PROVIDE THIS SERVICE?
“Yes, there are some state/academic hospitals currently in South Africa that do provide this treatment. There is a low-cost IVF programme at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.”
HOW CAN A WOMAN PREPARE HER BODY FOR IVF?
“All preparation that is needed for an IVF treatment cycle will be explained to a patient and managed by the medical professional with the appropriate medications. A balanced and healthy lifestyle is always recommended.”
WHERE CAN WOMEN GO FOR IVF?
“The Southern African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (Sasreg) has a list of accredited clinics within South Africa who offer various fertility treatments such as IVF. Go to sasreg. co.za/accredited-clinics/.”
WHAT ABOUT BIRTH DEFECTS?
“When babies are conceived naturally, they have the advantage of having imperfect sperm sifted out by the cervix – but this doesn’t exclude genetic abnormalities. The mother’s age is the primary risk factor. Some countries recommend the cut-off age to be 43. More research needs to be done to find out whether babies conceived using IVF may have a bigger risk of certain birth defects. On the other hand, some experts believe that using IVF does not increase the risk of birth defects.”
WHAT LIFESTYLE CHANGES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE IF YOU WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESSFUL FERTILITY TREATMENT?
■ QUIT SMOKING Women who smoke risk having fewer eggs retrieved during IVF and may have a higher risk of miscarrying. Smoking can also lower her chances of having a successful IVF. ■ LOSE WEIGHT Obesity can decrease a woman’s chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. It’s best to cut out all non-nutritional carbs, sugar, cakes, fast-foods and carbonated cooldrinks and to eat more fruit and vegetables every day. ■ EXERCISE Improves overall health. Walking is best. Use the stairs, walk during your lunch hour and walk every day before or after work. ■ CUT-OUT ALCOHOL, RECREATIONAL DRUGS AND EXCESSIVE CAFFEINE Speak to your doctor about any medications you may be taking that could interfere with your fertility. YP