In Vitro Fertilisation, a boon for women over 40

The birth of a child is a happy occasion for any family and a new chapter in the life of a couple, but there are a number of couples who are unable to conceive due to many reasons. However, in today’s time, medical science has made a quantum leap. The cutting-edge technology has revolutionised the way we look at infertility and offered fertile solutions to the infertile couples.The front line field of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one such technology which not only offers childless couples hope to be parents, but also offers better acceptance in the society.

IVF is one among those many treatment options for fertility in which the fertilisation occurs outside the body, in a tube. So the baby born from IVF is also known as test tube baby.When other methods of assisted reproductive technology (ART) fail to deliver results, IVF comes into picture. It has been increasingly undertaken by a number of couples who are unable to conceive and have ended up with successful and satisfactory results. The treatment is becoming more and more common in the country and the region and it is becoming the first priority amongst all assisted reproductive technology.

“Infertility is acknowledged worldwide as a major health problem. The prevalence of infertility in women of reproductive age has been estimated to be one in every seven couples in the western world and one in every four couples in developing countries” said Dr Carol Coughlan, Consultant Gynaecologist and Subspecialist Reproductive Medicine , at IVI Middle East Fertility Clinic, Dubai. IVI Middle East Fertility Clinic is the world leader in delivering fertility treatments with 71 clinics worldwide. It offers a comprehensive range of infertility treatments, including genetic testing, backed by advanced technology and a team of highly experienced specialists. More than 160,000 babies have been born worldwide with the help of IVI.

“Worldwide , multiple infertility factors are of clinical relevance , including age, endometriosis and polycystic ovaries. Age is one of the most important predictors of fertility. Many women today are career focused and may intentionally delay childbearing to facilitate their career progression or may not meet their life partner until they are in their late thirties or forties “ added Dr Carol.

Research suggests that trends seem good for women in their 40s hoping for motherhood. Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show 4,202 women aged 40 and over had babies in 2015 - 988 for the first time. This was a slight rise on 2014 figures - 4,135 including 940 first-timers. Births to first-time mums aged 40 and over have doubled in the last 10 years.

“Women are born with their full oocyte complement and these are not replenished throughout reproductive life. With advancing age we see a decline not only in oocyte number but also in oocyte quality” said Dr Carol. “The decline in oocyte quality is reflected in the increased risk of miscarriage and increased incidence of chromosomal disorders in the children of women of advanced maternal age.”

Pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) is a technique where medical experts can check the chromosomal components of an embryo before pregnancy occurs. Couples who have alterations or mutations in their genes, or who have a risk of having children with genetic disorders, benefit from this screening in a process referred to as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. The procedure for the test is simple. It includes obtaining eggs from the mother and injecting them with the husband’s sperm. The fertilised eggs are then followed for five or six days until they become embryos, inside the IVF lab. Then a biopsy is performed from the mature embryo when cells are examined to rule out any genetic mutation / alteration. This process takes about ten days. In the meanwhile, the embryos are frozen by a process known as cryopreservation. When the results from the screening process are available, chromosomally normal embryos, or embryos without the specified genetic condition are transferred into the mother’s uterus.

“The suggested population of patients that can benefit from PGS include infertile women of advanced age , patients with a history of recurrent miscarriage and couples who have experienced recurrent IVF failures,” concluded Dr Carol.

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