Ballarat's cute Harmer twins are among 15,190 IVF bubs born in 2016/2017 - and their four siblings are also the result of fertility technology.
The Harmers are one of thousands of Australia families built through medical technology.
Five of their six children – Winter, 7, Beau, 5, Violet, 3, and twins Banjo and Felix, 2 – were conceived using IVF technology. Eldest daughter Lily, 13, was also the result of fertility treatment.
Banjo and Felix are among a record-breaking group of births, as two of 15,190 IVF babies born in Australia and New Zealand in 2016/17 – the highest number ever in IVF’s 40-year history in Australia.
“We always wanted four kids, and since we finally had IVF working for us we decided to go for one more and got two more – a bonus baby,” said mum Kristin Harmer.
A report from the Fertility Society of Australia found couples have a one in four chance of having a baby when an embryo is is transferred, with almost 60 per cent of babies born through IVF treatment in 2016 resulting from frozen embryos.
Unlike many couples, the Harmers preferred to use fresh embryos and not freeze excess embryos for future use.
Ballarat IVF medical director Dr Russell Dalton said demand for IVF was increasing in the region, with about 200 to 220 babies a year born directly from IVF services in Ballarat.
“We see the need for IVF increasing because of lifestyle factors which contribute to infertility, and advanced age, alongside Ballarat’s population growth,” Dr Dalton said.
“We see an increase of about 7 per cent a year in the numbers of people we treat.”
The average age of Ballarat women having IVF is 34.7, but at a recent ante-natal clinic Dr Dalton found half the patients were over 40 and about 80 per cent of those had conceived through IVF.
Dr Dalton said increasing numbers of men were suffering significant fertility problems.
“In our regional centre the exposure of guys to various toxins in the workplace, farmers who are handling various insecticides and herbicides anecdotally … I think this is increasing the rate of male infertility,” he said.
“I see guys who are otherwise fit and well, who you’d never pick as having a decreased sperm count, who tend to come from regional rural areas with exposure to chemicals and although there isn’t solid data I have a gut feeling that’s a contributor.”
There is also a global decrease in male fertility. “If you look globally there’s a well-documented decrease in sperm function which probably has an environmental cause. Because it’s happened so quickly it can’t be entirely genetic.
“There’s a possibility it’s endocrine disruptors – plastics and BPS – that permeate our diet and environment that potentially adversely affects sperm function.”
HAVE YOUR SAY!
The Victorian Government announced recently that a 12 month review of the regulatory framework for assisted reproductive treatment would be undertaken by Mr Michael Gorton AM.
Ballarat IVF welcomes this review as an opportunity for our Victorian patients to provide feedback on the legislative framework that governs our operations and influences how you can access treatment.
To complete the review, the Government are seeking the views of anyone with ideas, knowledge or experience with IVF or assisted reproductive treatment. They are hoping to hear about issues related to the access and delivery of services and how the current regulatory framework for assisted reproductive treatment can be improved.
How to have your say?
As per the Victoria State Government website:
You can have your say on the issues covered by the review by:
If you make a formal submission, please indicate if your submission is confidential and whether or not you are prepared to have your submission quoted within a report to the Minister for Health. (The report may, at the discretion of the Minister, be publicly released and/or may be subject to disclosure through freedom of information processes.)
You are welcome both to answer the survey and make a submission if you wish.
All survey responses and formal submissions must be received no later than 21 September 2018, to ensure your feedback can be considered by the review team before the interim report in October 2018.
There will be a second phase of consultation early in 2019 before the final report is delivered in April 2019.
Let’s work together to ensure we get the changes we need to make assisted reproductive treatment an option for all those wishing to have a family.
No success in having a baby?
It could be due to Endometriosis.
Painful periods, painful sex or simply not getting pregnant without a cause can all be symptoms of Endometriosis.
At Ballarat IVF and SouthWest Fertility, our fertility Specialists will never advise you to have Assisted Reproduction Treatments before being carefully assessed for endometriosis. The assessment involves an examination along with a specialized ultrasound. If Endometriosis is suspected, we will discuss the treatment options with you, which may include a laparoscopy.
Irrespective of the way you are trying to conceive, be it naturally or with IVF, it is much more likely to be successful if endometriosis is detected, and treated.
For most couples, following an IVF treatment cycle, a number of high quality embryos develop, and are frozen. These frozen (or vitrified) embryos are your potential future family, suspended in time.
When thawed in 2, 3, or even 5 years time, it still grows and functions in the same way as when it was first formed. This gives you the same chance of your frozen embryo leading to the birth of a healthy baby, as it would have at the time the eggs were collected.
Ballarat IVF has a very good pregnancy rate using thawed embryos. In the year to June 2018, our patients under the age of 38, achieved a live pregnancy in 46% of embryo transfers, which is outstanding.
In the early days of IVF it was common practice to transfer multiple embryos with the belief that this would lead to higher success rates. However, over time many fertility experts now recognise that the transfer of a single embryo can result in high success rates while minimising the risks associated with multiple births.
At Ballarat IVF we have moved towards single embryo transfers for the majority of our patients. This has led to greatly reduced multiple pregnancies while maintaining high pregnancy rates.
Over the years, we have witnessed a steady decline in multiple pregnancy rates from 23% in 2006 to 0% in 2018 for Fresh Embryo transfers. This has been achieved by reducing the number of double embryo transfers. In the under 38 years group, this has dropped from 50% in 2006 down to 5% in 2018 (as shown in the graph). Similar trends have been seen across all age groups and within both Fresh and Frozen embryo transfers.
At the same time we have seen an increase in pregnancy success rates with a confirmed fetal heart in 38% of our fresh cycles and 46% for Frozen Embryo transfers in 2018. These success rates have been achieved by ideal embryo culture conditions, careful embryo selection and preparation of the uterine lining for implantation.
Figure 1. Fetal heart pregnancies per fresh embryo transfer versus percentage of double embryo transfers for patients less than 38 years from 2006 to 2018 at Ballarat IVF.
For the best results for your frozen embryo transfer the Ballarat IVF and South West Fertility team work carefully to grow the highest quality embryos, freeze them carefully, then provide treatments to ensure that your body is perfectly prepared for your embryo transfer.
The great news of a positive pregnancy test from a frozen embryo transfer has it’s beginning when your Fertility Specialist plans the type of stimulation process for you. From this individualized plan, the highest quality eggs are collected, and fertilized.
Once fertilized, embryos are carefully nurtured to give them the best opportunity to develop.
Our Scientists take the time to assess each embryo, and when freezing them, select embryos which have a high chance of leading to a pregnancy. Ballarat IVF only freezes embryos which develop to the blastocyst stage (day 5).
When a couple has embryos frozen at blastocyst stage, they can be confident that the embryo has shown all the features which increase the chances of success.
When it comes to planning the frozen embryo transfer, it is crucial that the lining of the uterus is “synchronized” to the age of the embryo. Ballarat IVF and South West Fertility Specialists and Nurses are expert in planning your frozen embryo transfer. We use a number of factors, such as thickness of the endometrium, hormone levels and assessment of any bleeding to determine the very best time to transfer your embryo.
The steps involved in embryo transfer are highly structured, so that each Fertility Specialist at Ballarat IVF performs the transfer in exactly the same way, using ultrasound to guide the embryo into the correct place. Once the embryo is in place, the Fertility Nurses provide support and advice regarding additional treatment you should continue whilst waiting for the news.
Once we have carefully optimized everything we can, the rest is up to nature!
All the best.
Lots of women have fibroids, and in some situations, they contribute to infertility.
So, a woman needs very good advice as to whether a fibroid should be removed to improve fertility.
Fibroids are very common tumours, or growths found in the uterus of up to 40% of woman. They can be tiny (1cm across) or massive. The largest removed by Ballarat IVF, and SouthWest Fertility specialists was 3.5kg! They are almost always non cancerous and tend to grow slowly.
The larger a fibroid is, and the closer it is to the endometrium, (uterine lining) the more likely it is to be playing a role in infertility. Fibroids are also thought to cause fertility problems by changing the way the uterus contracts, possibly expelling a healthy embryo, and they can also release locally active hormones which adversely affect the uterine lining, even if they are not near it.
There are a number of ways to treat fibroids. Sometimes the best treatment is no treatment. Hormones can be prescribed to reduce the size of fibroids, or surgery performed to remove fibroids altogether.
If you are trying to conceive, and have fibroids, you need careful, considered advice about what to do about them. Removal of fibroids can be unnecessary, but on the other hand, can markedly improve your chances of conceiving.
Ballarat IVF and Southwest fertility specialists are experts in assessing and treating fibroids. Often there is no need for treatment, but if surgery is to be performed, it has to be done properly.
Endometriosis is when cells that line the uterus are found in other parts of the body and is a very common condition present in women trying to conceive. We look carefully for it, treat it by performing laparoscopic surgery and removing it. There is good evidence that treating endometriosis increases the chances of having a baby.
Adenomyosis is a condition of the uterus where the cells that form the lining on the inside of the uterus also grow in the muscle wall of the uterus. Each month, these buried areas of lining bleed, and cause inflammation, swelling and release of chemicals and hormones which lead to pain.
Adenomyosis and Endometriosis are often found together.
When a woman has painful heavy periods, and is having trouble conceiving, part of the cause of her symptoms may also be adenomyosis. There is new evidence accumulating which shows that adenomyosis, when present,
further adversely affects the chances of conception.
The diagnosis of adenomyosis involves careful examination, and ultrasound assessment of the uterus. MRI is sometimes used. The treatment offered depends on each woman’s situation, but can involve drug treatment, prior to IVF. With specific treatment of adenomyosis, the chances of having a baby can be significantly improved.
Your Ballarat IVF and SouthWest Fertility Gynaecologists are experts in assessing you for the presence of adenomyosis, and will give you personalized advice regarding the best treatment.
Did you know that in some clinics, over 70% of IVF cycles involve the use of ICSI?
The majority of women and couples attending Ballarat IVF and South West Fertility are able to achieve a pregnancy without having IVF. A detailed discussion with your fertility specialist looking for common contributors to infertility is the first step. Offering sensible and effective treatment for conditions, such as ovulation problems, PCOS, and endometriosis often leads to the birth of a healthy baby with very little fuss, or expense.
However, when ICSI is required, Ballarat IVF and South West Fertility have five IVF scientists who are experts in performing ICSI, and we have State of the Art equipment which is available for use every day.
Our scientists use ICSI in about 50% of treatment cycles. Some other clinics have ICSI rates of more than 70%.
The typical situation requiring ICSI is one where the male partner has a very low sperm count, or where sperm is retrieved from a man who has had a previous vasectomy. In these situations, the likelihood of an egg fertilizing, if combined with sperm without ICSI is very low.
Other situations where ICSI can be needed is when, despite all investigations, there is no obvious cause for not achieving a pregnancy. This is called idiopathic infertility. In some of these couples, the cause is a sperm binding problem. That is, that the egg and sperm don’t join properly to allow fertilization. There is no way to test for this problem.
If a couple, with idiopathic infertility, require IVF, we often will use ICSI on half of the eggs, and perform normal IVF on the other half. This step provides an “insurance policy” in case there is an underlying sperm binding problem. If we didn’t do ICSI on some of the eggs, we could all be very disappointed the day after egg collection if none of the eggs had fertilized with normal IVF.
At Ballarat IVF and South West Fertility, about 50% of our couples having IVF require ICSI. We try to keep the rate of ICSI as low as possible, without risking having poor egg fertilization results for our couples.
If you have questions as to whether you really need ICSI in your IVF cycle, feel free to contact Ballarat IVF or South West Fertility.