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The Second Chance - IVF


This is due to the fact that in the past, laboratory equipment such as test tubes and petri dishes were always made of glass; and since test tubes and petri dishes have always been such iconic symbols for Scientific Progress, the term IVF – along with “test tube baby” – was thus coined.

In spite of its name, babies are neither grown in test tubes nor put together like some kind of chemical reaction: in fact, the whole process is fairly simple, relatively painless, minimally invasive and hardly involves test tubes at all.

A woman undergoing IVF must first have some eggs harvested from her body. Prior to the operation, her ovaries would be stimulated with certain hormonal drugs to cause her to release multiple eggs - as opposed to the single egg that she would normally release - the next time she is fertile. This is done to increase the chances of pregnancy: with a single egg, all you have is but a single chance, but if you have multiple eggs, you can have that many more chances at pregnancy without needing to stimulate the patient repeatedly.

Once these eggs are harvested, they are combined with sperm harvested from the would-be father in a petri dish to form embryos: that is to say, fertilised eggs.

The IVF embryologist then grows these embryos in a specialised incubator and, once they are ready, can be replaced into the uterus. When the woman is ready to try for pregnancy, the IVF doctor replaces an embryo back into the woman’s womb, where it is then free to grow to maturity naturally. Excess embryos can be frozen for future replacements.

Thanks to developments in medical science such as the use of personalised protocols for ovarian stimulation and better laboratory techniques, live birth rates using IVF have increased to more than 40 per cent, especially in younger women under the age of 35. IVF is also easier to administer today, requiring fewer blood tests and drug injections than just a few years ago. Not only do the hormonal drugs have less unwanted side effects, the effects of the drugs are also stronger and last longer, making it less disruptive on the life of the woman undergoing IVF treatment

The modern techniques used to freeze embryos has also revolutionised the way in which many women approach fertility. In the past, many young women had to choose between either advancing their career or being a full-time mother. Now, thanks to the high rates of success with embryonic freezing, women may finally choose when exactly they want to have children. No longer do they need to make the difficult decision of choosing between career and motherhood.

Freezing embryos and ovarian tissue will also allow women with cancers to preserve their fertility even after undergoing cancer treatment. Many forms of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, often adversely affect a woman’s fertility; if the woman had access to her previously-frozen embryos and ovarian tissue, however, she may effectively reverse time, allowing her to have children even after battling cancer.

Dr Michael Wong

Medical Director & Senior Consultant Urologist
FAMS (Urology), FICS (USA), FRCS (Edinburgh),
M Med (Surgery), MBBS (S’pore)

Dr Michael Wong is a Senior Consultant Urologist who is internationally recognized for his surgical expertise and academic contribution to the field of Urology, in particular the subspecialized field of minimally invasive Endourology.

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