And the October 2012 Modern Motherhood Report found that one in ten couples now look for help conceiving. So what should you know if you're considering IVF treatment? Fertility guru Zita West runs the UK's leading IVF Clinic. Here she shares her top tips.
An IVF cycle includes taking fertility drugs, collecting eggs and implanting embryos, and this can cost between £3500 and £4000. With your chances of conceiving between 15% and 30%, however, many couples will need more than one cycle to get pregnant.
Couples should think carefully about this when they're choosing where to have IVF. Clinics with the best success rates can be slightly more expensive. But even one less IVF cycle will save you thousands, so it's worth weighing the odds.
There's no doubt that IVF can put your relationship under strain. The latest research from the University of Indiana showed that women undergoing IVF enjoyed sex less and experienced more sexual discomfort. This is in addition to the complex emotional issues which can surround getting pregnant, and IVF money worries.
Make sure you've talked with one another, and both understand what's involved. A good clinic will be happy to talk your through all the options and provide a couples counselling service if needed.
Our clinic has success rates of 52% for women aged 30-40, and these are considered some of the best in the country. For those over 40, the chances drop to 32%. Couples should be aware that IVF may not result in pregnancy, and be prepared to deal with the possibility of disappointment.
The time needed for a healthy lifestyle to affect both eggs and sperm is three months. So both partners should aim to eat healthily, stop smoking, cut down on alcohol, and take beneficial supplements for three months before IVF treatment.
Depending on your reason for needing IVF, treatments can vary. Be aware of the impact differing drugs might have on your emotions. Treatment where another woman's eggs are implanted may also raise extra issues to be discussed with both partners.
Supplements of certain vitamins can make an enormous difference to both partner's fertility. Research published in Fertility and Sterility Journal found that men taking zinc and folic acid for 6 months increased their sperm count by 76%. Whilst women taking vitamin E can help older women producing less eggs per cycle. These are only a few studies, and many other vitamins can boost fertility. Choose a good quality supplement designed for fertility, and take for three months prior to IVF.
Stress can be a real killer for healthy fertility – which is the last thing couples want to hear when embarking on IVF. But there's plenty you can do to keep a healthy mind-set, both before and during treatment. I recommend acupuncture as well as aromatherapy and lifestyle changes. A relaxation CD for the dreaded 'two-week-wait' is also advisable, and we've developed one especially for this purpose.
The research is coming in that IVF is not as simple as implanting embryos. There is a significant mind and body connection which impacts enormously on fertility. I strongly recommend couples visit a clinic where they are treated as unique individuals rather than reduced to their sperm and ovaries. This means taking an integrated approach and assessing not just the reproductive organs, but your lifestyle, state of mind and overall health.
For those undergoing IVF, the 'two-week-wait' is the period between implanting and finding out if pregnancy has occurred. As you might imagine it can be an intensely stressful and emotional time. Couples should plan ahead how they might best cope with this period, as staying as stress-free as possible is important – though easier said than done.
Zita West runs the UK's leading clinic in fertility treatments.
Read a review of Your Pregnancy Companion by Zita West
Read a member's review of Fertility and Assisted Conception by Zita West
by Catherine Quinn