Selecting the right treatment
As is true for virtually all problems we face in life, there is more than one way to approach their solution. At Gen 5 Fertility, we believe that you should fully understand all of the approaches that are available to you before you decide. We respect the choice that you make and we work with you to maximize the chance that your choice will be successful.
Our Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Program
Terms of Reference
IVF is perhaps the best known fertility treatment under the larger umbrella called “ART”. But what does ART mean anyway? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention defines “Assisted Reproductive Technology” as all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are therapeutically processed (or “medically handled”).
This means that for something to be classified as an ART procedure, it must involve surgically removing eggs from a woman, combining these eggs with sperm in a laboratory, and then placing the resulting embryo into the woman’s body—or donating the embryos to someone else. So, strictly speaking, ART does not include treatments where just sperm alone is processed/handled (i.e., intrauterine—or artificial—insemination), or procedures in which a woman takes medicine only to stimulate her egg production without the intention of having eggs surgically retrieved.
At G5F, the full range of fertility treatment options are available—from the simple to most complex.
The main issue confronting many who are considering any type of ART as a way to start (or grow) their family is safety. Is IVF really safe? What are the health concerns—both for mom and for baby?
G5F takes these matters seriously, and writes about this topic whenever possible. Although our team has personally been involved in thousands of IVF cases worldwide, we agree that this treatment should only be undertaken after careful thought.
Does IVF increase the risk of cancer? This question actually has two parts—cancer risk for moms, and cancer risk for babies. Let’s look at the data on mothers (the IVF patients) first.
One of the largest & best known studies on this topic was produced by the Lund Institute(Sweden). They focused mainly on ovarian cancer, and recognized that the same pathology causing any ovarian disease might also be associated with female infertility later. Thus, cancer itself (or cancer treatment) may increase the risk for infertility, which can lead to IVF. But these researchers found that after IVF, where most patients had treatment that included fertility drugs, a significantly low cancer risk was measured. Ovarian cancer showed some risk, although lower than before IVF. One possible reason for this is that the same ovarian pathology causing infertility also brings an increased ovarian cancer risk. Basically, being infertile seems to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
What about babies conceived from IVF? To address the next part of the question, University College London sponsored research based on the comprehensive national registry of all IVF clinics in the U.K. and linked that with the British cancer registries. That way, they could tell if the babies born after IVF were showing up later with serious medical problems. The study revealed no overall increased risk of cancer among children born from IVF compared with the general population.
What about other factors? Recently, researchers led by New Zealand’s Liggins Institute (Univ Aukland) reported IVF children were a bit taller than expected and had better cholesterol profiles. This was reassuring considering that some authors had previously wondered if the lower birth weight sometimes observed in IVF babies might be associated with poorer health long term.
But the details were intriguing: children conceived when estrogen levels were elevated (i.e., IVF + fresh embryo transfer) were taller, while children conceived with typical amounts of estrogen (i.e., thawed embryo transfer, “FET”) were average height.
So, rather than the culture milieu associated with IVF embryos resulting in some apparent change in offspring height, it now seems plausible that the prevailing hormone situation near the time of conception is really what matters. Such findings appear to show that the fertility “stimulation protocol” chosen for IVF matters a lot, and there is more to assisted reproduction than just what happens in our laboratories.