What is IVF and how does it work?

Are you considering IVF?

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a long time and haven’t been successful, you might have already talked to your doctor about your options. It can be a stressful, confronting time for you or your partner to find out there’s potentially problems with your fertility. It can bring the world sharply into focus, and force you to make some hard decisions about your future, as well as leave you with lots of unanswered questions. It’s a difficult process to go through, and you may feel alone, but it’s estimated that 15 per cent of couples in Australia face some kind of fertility problem.

There are many possible causes of infertility. For women, it might be problems with the fallopian tubes, cervix or uterus, or might have something to do with your menstrual cycle or endometriosis. For men, it can be caused by problems with the sperm, impotence, or obstructions to the passage of sperm.

If it is found that you are infertile, a fertility specialist can help you formulate the best treatment plan for you, and there are a number of options that can be considered including IVF.


In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is just one of the treatments available for couples to explore. It’s a process where a woman’s eggs are fertilised with a man’s sperm outside of the body, and once they are fertilised, they are then transplanted into the woman’s body in the hope a successful pregnancy will follow.

If you are considering IVF, you may be overwhelmed with the information and advice out there. Your doctor is a good starting point for any concerns or questions you might have, but it’s also a good idea to do your own research.

10 things to keep in mind when you are considering IVF

  1. You are not alone. In fact, one in six couples will have difficulty getting pregnant and close to one in 30 babies is conceived with IVF.
  2. Don’t wait too long to seek advice. IVF Australia recommends that couples under the age of 35 who have been trying for 12 months or more should seek advice from a fertility specialist. Couples over the age of 35 are advised to seek advice after 6 months, as fertility declines significantly in your late 30s.
  3. You’ll need a referral from your GP before you get started. Make time to chat with your GP about what you can expect and the support that is available.
  4. Research to find the right IVF clinic. Your GP is a good starting point, but you can also do your own online research and call clinics directly. It’s a good idea to ask what treatment options they offer, how individualised the treatment is, what the costs will be and what will be covered by your private health insurance. Consider getting a second opinion if you have any concerns of the cost of the treatment.
  5. You will begin by undergoing a series of tests. Both partners will usually undergo tests to explore the potential causes of infertility. These include blood tests, ultrasound tests for females and semen analysis for males. Treatment will largely be dictated by the results of these tests.
  6. You’ll get an individual treatment plan. Once you have completed your tests, your fertility specialist will confirm your treatment plan and answer any questions you might have. Read more about what IVF treatment involves.
  7. Understand your chances of conceiving. It’s a good idea to be across IVF success rates and to be aware that clinics often report success rates differently. Every year, researchers at the University of New South Wales report on IVF treatments in Australia and New Zealand. In 2013, they reported that of 100 women who started hormone stimulation in a single treatment cycle, 16 had a live birth.
  8. Some lifestyle factors affect the chance of IVF success. To improve the chance of success both partners are encouraged to maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, limit alcohol, eat a healthy nutritious diet, exercise regularly, avoid contact with toxic chemicals, and visit your doctor for a thorough preconception health check. Women are also recommended to increase their intake of folate.
  9. The cost of IVF varies. This depends on your individual treatment plan and if your health insurance includes cover for IVF. Medibank’s Growing Family Comprehensive covers some of the costs of IVF treatments. Check with your clinic and Medibank before you get started and do your research to get an idea of costs you can expect from IVF. Remember waiting periods may apply on your cover.
  10. Undergoing IVF treatment can be a difficult journey both physically and emotionally. It’s important to get support if you are struggling. You can access counselling and free support from Access Australia.

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