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8 Myths About IVF

There are few medical procedures that come with the physical, emotional and financial stakes that accompany in vitro fertilization (IVF). And even though the assisted reproductive technology has been in practice for several decades—the first IVF baby was born in 1978; the country’s inaugural IVF clinic opened in 1980—it still faces its share of misconceptions. To help separate fact from fiction, we turned to Sheeva Talebian and Jaime Knopman, board certified reproductive endocrinologists and fertility experts at the SoHo location of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York (594 Broadway, Suite 1011, 212-906-7900;, for some concrete answers—from how much age really matters to whether working out is allowed.

Myth #1: IVF is the same as IUI.

IVF and IUI are both fertility treatments that are commonly used for couples facing fertility struggles; however, in IVF fertilization occurs in vitro (in the laboratory), whereas IUI (intrauterine insemination) fertilization occurs in vivo (in the body). With IVF, women take daily injection gonadotropins to produce multiple mature eggs, which are then extracted and fertilized in the lab. Embryos are then typically cultured, or grown, for three to five days, at which time the transfer is performed. Typically only one to two embryos are put back at one time. With IUI treatment, the sperm is “washed”—concentrated down to the most viable sperm—and placed into a thin catheter that is then passed through the cervix and put at the top of the uterus. The woman may or may not take hormones to ovulate more than one egg.

Myth #2: IVF success rates are consistent no matter a woman’s age.

Unfortunately, much of what dictates the success of an IVF treatment is a woman’s age. Despite how we look or feel on the outside, our ovaries are often a separate story. So yes, the younger the woman the better her chances of getting pregnant with IVF. Most centers report their IVF statistics to the CDC and SART (Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies). These statistics are broken down into groups based on the age of the woman.

Myth #3: Fertility takes an unfailing dip after the age of 35.

For a majority of women, the slope of fertility decline does steepen after 35; however, this is not universal and many women are able to conceive into their 40s. Family history is an incredibly important component. Women whose mothers went through an early menopause are often at risk for undergoing an early menopause as well. On the contrary, those whose mother had a later menopause and children at an older age may also be somewhat protected.

Myth #4: IVF automatically increases a woman’s chances of having twins (or more).

The goal of most fertility medications is to cause super ovulation: Rather than ovulating the traditional one egg per month, you ovulate several. However, it is not the number of eggs that are made that dictates the number of fetuses, but rather how many embryos are implanted. In the early days of IVF we put several embryos back into a woman’s uterus to achieve adequate pregnancy rates. Today, as IVF success rates have increased, we routinely put one embryo back at a time. IVF actually allows the most control for multiples and is the best form of fertility treatment when trying to minimize the risk of twins.

Myth #5: Those opting for IVF are not allowed to choose the sex of their child.

If a couple would like to select for gender, this is possible with IVF. It does require taking a piece of what will become the placenta, which is called a trophectoderm biopsy, but it can certainly be done. But this is not a routine procedure with IVF. Testing the chromosomes, which includes the sex chromosomes, of an embryo is an additional step in the process that should be discussed and decided upon prior to starting an IVF cycle. Many people opt to test the chromosomes of an embryo if they have a history of repeat miscarriage or are over the age of 35. Gender is part of this information. If there are multiple embryos that are viable after the testing process, a woman or couple may chose the gender.

Myth #6: It is normally an issue with the woman when a pregnancy doesn’t occur.

Absolutely not! There are not enough ways to say this is totally incorrect. Aside from smoking cigarettes, there are really no habits or hobbies that a woman engages in that lead to infertility or miscarriage or a failed IVF cycle. Furthermore, up to 40 percent of couples with infertility have a male factor contributing as well.

Myth #7: Insurance does not cover IVF.

Nowadays several insurance policies cover IVF. It is important to check with your individual employer and insurance company to gather more information regarding your specific coverage. If you don’t ask you will never know.

Myth #8: Women undergoing IVF should stop working out completely.

Women can exercise while undergoing fertility treatments and while pregnant. We often recommend curtailing intensity when undergoing the stimulation portion of IVF—the shots—because the ovaries can become large and are at risk for twisting. But this is usually not greater than ten days to two weeks of limited exercise.

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