Renowned gynaecologist shares an IVF guide to overcoming infertility

Picture: RDNE Stock project/Pexels

Picture: RDNE Stock project/Pexels

Published Apr 17, 2024


In 1978, history was made with the arrival of the world's first baby born through in vitro fertilisation (IVF), marking the beginning of a revolutionary fertility treatment now embraced globally.

Fast forward to today, and it is believed that over five million babies have been born thanks to IVF.

Simply put, IVF is a procedure where fertilisation happens outside the human body, in a lab, rather than inside the fallopian tubes. This technique has become a beacon of hope for countless couples facing infertility.

IVF merely facilitates the meeting of sperm and egg in a controlled setting. Picrure: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition o/Pexels

The process relies heavily on laboratory methods that aim to mimic natural body conditions to ensure the success of fertilisation and the growth of the embryo. With each passing year, scientific advancements continue to enhance these lab conditions further.

Contrary to what some might think, the fertilisation aspect of IVF is not artificial or mechanically induced. IVF merely facilitates the meeting of sperm and egg in a controlled setting.

From that point on, nature takes its course, following the same physiological and biological paths as it would naturally.

Currently, infertility challenges affect at least one in every six couples in South Africa – an issue that statistics attribute equally to both men and women. Some of these couples turn to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) as a medical solution.

A good understanding of the conditions in which IVF is the most suitable intervention and how it works can be instrumental in helping couples make informed decisions about their pregnancy journey.

According to the South African Registry for Assisted Reproductive Techniques, 5000 IVF cycles are performed in South Africa every year.

Despite several turbulent economic trends in recent times, this statistical value has remained relatively stable when compared to previous years.

Dr Kasturi Moodley, renowned Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Mediclinic Southern Africa, shares her knowledge on why some couples struggle to have a baby.

She points out that infertility can stem from various factors, touching on social, medical, and lifestyle aspects.

"When a couple has been trying to conceive for a year without any luck, they are considered infertile".

Great news for couples struggling to start a family: treatments like IVF, paired with some lifestyle tweaks, can play a huge part in making their parenting dreams come true.

Doctors and healthcare centres need to help break down the stigma around infertility. By offering clear support and spreading the word on how to improve fertility chances, they're making a big difference.

When infertility is suspected, fertility clinics get to work by doing some essential tests. These include checking the health of the ovaries, and the fallopian tubes, and analysing the semen.

With all this information in hand, the clinic can sit down with the couple to figure out the best way forward, helping them take a big step towards starting their family, Dr Moodley explains.

Treatment and cost

She explains that when couples are checked and everything looks good — meaning the woman has a good amount of healthy eggs, her fallopian tubes are open, and the man’s sperm is normal — they usually get two choices: IVF or a simpler process called intrauterine insemination (IUI).

On the other hand, if there’s an issue found in any of these tests, then the doctors will suggest a specific treatment based on what the problem is. Each couple's situation is looked at individually to figure out the best way to help them.

“It is very important to note that an invasive fertility treatment is not always the only option recommended. Treating fertility issues is a highly personalised process that depends on several factors that will be unique to each couple.

“It is therefore vital that couples undergo consultations with the right medical experts who will review their case and assist them in making the decision that works for them.”

The approximate cost of IVF is R 73 000 (this excludes the cost of medication during treatment, which can range between R 12 000 - R 15 000). Additional costs that could apply include donor eggs, donor sperm and freezing of additional embryos.

“IVF is suitable for any couple in whom the woman is 35 years old and above and/or who has not had success with IUI procedures.

“IVF is also suitable for same-sex couples in whom one partner would like to provide the egg and the other partner would like to use her uterus to grow an embryo – doing it in this way ensures that both partners play an integral part in the fertility process.”

Contributing factors to a positive outcome

Many couples trying or thinking about fertility treatments wonder how they can boost their chances of having a baby. Making healthy lifestyle changes is crucial.

"Couples should view fertility treatments not just as a quick solution but as a journey that demands discipline and smart choices," advises Dr Moodley. She stresses the importance of adopting a holistic approach to health, saying it can significantly improve the chances of success.

She highly recommends eating well, staying active, limiting alcohol, and quitting smoking.

She adds, "Starting with a healthier lifestyle is key. And it's even better when couples do it together." IVF can be incredibly tough emotionally and mentally.