Since the late 1980’s, IVF has become the mainstay for treating infertile couples that have been frustrated with timed intercourse, watchful waiting, sayings like “just relax it will happen,” failed Clomid treatments or IUI treatments, unhelpful surgeries, and more. But why is IVF so revered? Because it works! When I first started in the field of reproductive medicine the Time’s magazine headline was about how IVF “only” works for 25% of the patients. This implied that it was not a good choice – Far be it! What they failed to understand was that a) Fertility in 20-year-olds is only 20% per month and b) these successful patients (25%) would never, in all past human history, been able to procreate. So 25% was actually miraculous!
Pervasive Myths about IVF
Fast forward to now, and IVF is a commodity with an unclear definition that carries many myths and misconceptions with it. But don’t worry–we are going to help dismantle those myths so you and your family can better understand the truth about IVF. If you have a concern or question we haven’t addressed below, you can always contact us, too.
The most common myths about IVF:
- You will have a high order pregnancy (i.e. twins, triplets, quadruplets).
- Your pregnancy chances are low.
- IVF medications cause cancer.
- IVF isn’t affected by lifestyle.
- It is too expensive.
- It’s possible to regrow eggs in your body.
- Age doesn’t matter.
- It only takes one sperm to get pregnant.
- Some IVF centers have special ingredients that get people pregnant faster.
IVF Myth #1 – If I do IVF I will become an Octomom
Fact: Today, most IVF centers do elective single embryo transfers (eSET). Also, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine strongly recommends only 1 embryo be transferred for all patients, regardless of age. So triplet rates or more have plummeted. Also, Clomid (oral fertility medication – given by many types of non-RE&I doctors) is the #1 cause of higher order (triplets and above) pregnancies–NOT IVF.
IVF Myth #2 – If I do IVF my pregnancy chances are only 15 to 20%
Fact: The average national pregnancy rates based on over 200,000 IVF cycles done in the US is over 40% live births for patients younger than 30 and if patients use IVF and add PGT-A (genetic testing) and Frozen Embryo transfer (like all HQA patients), then their pregnancy rates hover at about 60%.
IVF Myth #3 – IVF medications “cause” cancer
Fact: Published data has repeatedly dispelled this myth with excellent population based studies. What they found was that it wasn’t the medications that created the slight increase (slight) in cancers in infertile women, it was the mere fact of being infertile (no pregnancy and no breast feeding) that put women at higher risks for some cancers.
IVF Myth #4 – IVF can overcome all poor lifestyle choices
Fact: No, it can’t. Alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, caffeine, poor nutrition, etc. have repeatedly been shown to negatively impact natural fertility (Sex) and IVF in all its forms. Lifestyle choices can even impact whether the embryo grows normally or not (Aneuploidy).
IVF Myth #5 – IVF is Very, very expensive
Fact: HQA has pioneered High Quality AFFRODABLE fertility care. The average IVF cost runs $23,000 including meds in the US. At HQA that fee is $ 10,700 ($7700 for procedures and $3000 for meds on average). The average IVF with PGT-A (genetic testing of embryos) in the US is about $36,000 with meds. At HQA that fee is $16,000 ($11,000 for procedures and $4,000 for meds).
IVF Myth #6 – We can regrow eggs, I saw it on TV
Fact: There are studies of mice that demonstrate that there may be cells in the ovary that MAY have the potential to grow new eggs, but for humans (so far) that is not possible and not likely for 5–10 more years.
IVF Myth #7 – I am a very healthy woman over the age of 40, so my eggs must be viable
Fact: All women, healthy or not, lose 10,000 eggs every month since birth, and slow down egg loss at puberty to 1,000 lost per month after age 13 until they run out of eggs, which we define as menopause. Yes, time is associated with reduction in the numbers of eggs; however, time (aging) is associated with the increase in the number of abnormal eggs, too. Such that at 44 years of age, over 95% of all eggs found in the ovary are abnormal. Whether you are rich or not, healthy or not, your biologic clock does tick tock. By the way, most pregnancies in “famous” couples that occur after age 45 are likely due to donor eggs.
IVF Myth #8 – It only takes one sperm to get pregnant
Fact: It takes about 100,000,000 sperm in the vagina to get 100,000 into the uterus to get 4,000 to the egg in the fallopian tube to get 1 in! In IVF, myth becomes reality. In the procedure ICSI, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, it truly only takes 1 sperm to fertilize an egg! Super helpful for males with low counts, poor motility, and/or non-swimming sperm.
IVF Myth #9 – IVF centers have “special sauce” to help couples get pregnant
Fact: the vast majority of IVF centers in the US use store purchased media, ICSI needles, incubators, and supplies and most centers buy them from the exact same vendors. All RE&I doctors must pass the same exams to practice medicine and are regulated by the exact same governmental and medical agencies to ensure common compliance in all rules and procedures. No IVF practice can experiment on patients or should (see recent story of genetic engineered children in China), so standards of care MUST be adhered to. Finally, simply check out the CDC: the average pregnancy rates have NOT changed for the past 10 years, or if they have it’s only based on the use of new technologies and not new locations or new doctors/embryologists.
About the Author, Dr. Magarelli
Dr. Paul C. Magarelli MD PhD is a Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility (REI) specialist who has national acclaim; he has practiced in Colorado since 1998. He is founder and Medical Director of High Quality Affordable Fertility Centers in both Colorado Springs and Denver Metro.