Do you really need IVF? This free online tool can help you weigh up your options – News24

Although IVF might seem like the fastest option, it can be expensive, costing most people thousands. And like any medical procedure, IVF carries risks, particularly for women. (Prostock-Studio/Getty Images)

While based on international data, the below article by The Conversation remains relevant to local readers.

People who want a baby and struggle to conceive often resort to in vitro fertilisation (IVF). While IVF has helped countless people have children, its expensive and comes with some risks.

But research shows some people with so-called unexplained infertility have a 30-40% chance of conceiving without treatment if they just keep trying for a bit longer.

So, how long should you wait before starting fertility treatment? This depends on a range of factors that might increase or decrease your chance of conceiving naturally, as well as your personal preferences for seeking treatment or not.

A new online guide can estimate your chance of conceiving with and without treatment. The free tool collects information based on what we understand to be the main factors affecting a womans chance of falling pregnant, with a view to informing decisions around fertility treatment.

Sometimes theres no clear explanation

Its recommended women who have tried unsuccessfully for a baby for 12 months, or six months if theyre over 35, seek medical advice. This is so the doctor can arrange for tests to determine whether theres a reason for infertility.

If these tests show the womans fallopian tubes are blocked, or that the male partner has a very low sperm count, its best to go straight to IVF. In most cases, thats the only way the couple will be able to get pregnant.

If your doctor finds no obvious problem, you have whats called unexplained or idiopathic infertility.

Also see|Weeing on a stick: Everything you need to know about home pregnancy tests

Weighing up your options

It can be very frustrating to be told theres nothing wrong, when month after month goes by without pregnancy happening.

Although IVF might seem like the fastest option, it can be expensive, costing most people thousands of dollars. And like any medical procedure, IVF carries risks, particularly for women.

If your tests come back normal, it might be worth considering giving nature a bit more time, or trying a simpler form of infertility treatment, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI). IUI involves insertion of the male partners (or a donors) sperm into a womans uterus at or just before ovulation.

So which path is right for you? This is where the new online guide can help.

Read more: I have PCOS and I want to have a baby, what do I need to know?

Its built on evidence

Research tracking thousands of people with unexplained infertility has found many go on to have healthy babies naturally, or with the help of simple fertility treatment. In one study of more than 1,200 couples with unexplained infertility, 25% conceived naturally within 12 months.

Of course, for some women conception will be more likely, and for some women it will be less likely.

Experts used the data from this research to develop the online guide. The personalised calculations are based on four factors that evidence indicates are most likely to affect the chance of pregnancy.

The most important factor that affects a womans chance of having a baby naturally or with IVF is her age. So whats labelled unexplained infertility may in fact be age-related. While pregnancy can still happen, by age 40 a womans fertility is about half the level it was when she was 30.

Other factors include how long she has been trying for a baby (the likelihood of conception decreases with the duration of trying), whether shes been pregnant before (women who have never conceived before have a lower probability of achieving a pregnancy), and what proportion of the male partners sperm move normally (called progressive motility on a semen analysis report).

Read more: Considering using IVF to have a baby? Here's what you need to know

How does it work?

The guide is designed for heterosexual couples and for women who are trying to get pregnant with a known sperm donor, where:

the woman has regular menstrual cycles

the woman has at least one open fallopian tube

the woman is 42 or younger

the man has had a sperm test.

Must read |What the fertility doctors wished you knew about fertility challenges

Four questions ask about the four factors most likely to affect a womans chance of conception, described above.

The responses are then fed into the algorithm, which estimates the chance of pregnancy over the next 12 months in three different scenarios:

This information can help people consider their options and decide about next steps.

If your estimated chance of spontaneous pregnancy in the next 12 months is 30% or more, you have a good chance of avoiding the need for expensive fertility treatments. But if youre not pregnant after six months, the guide suggests seeking advice from a fertility specialist about the next steps.

If your estimated chance without treatment is less than 30%, its best to see a fertility specialist as soon as possible.

A word of caution

While the guide can help you explore your options and consider next steps, the estimates it gives are based on averages of data from large studies of people with unexplained infertility.

This means it shouldnt replace advice from a fertility specialist, who will hopefully use the available evidence to recommend the best way forward for you, considering your personal circumstances and preferences.

Read more: Women's fertility: does 'egg timer' testing work, and what are the other options?

Karin Hammarberg, Senior Research Fellow, Global and Women's Health, School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Do you really need IVF? This free online tool can help you weigh up your options - News24

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