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What is artificial insemination (IVF) - with Dr Michael Schenk

You've probably heard a thing or two about artificial insemination (IVF). But what exactly happens and what does the typical IVF process look like? We asked our fertility expert Dr Michael Schenk.

Having an unfulfilled desire to have children can be extremely stressful for both partners. If you have already tried every possible way to get pregnant naturally, artificial insemination (IVF - in vitro fertilisation) is often the last resort.

But what exactly happens, what does the typical IVF path look like, for whom is IVF the right path and what steps can be considered beforehand? We have got to the bottom of these questions and have therefore worked with our Paediatric wish expert Dr Michael Schenk spoken.

When should I start seeing an IVF specialist?

Dr Schenk: IVF institutes are usually also specialists in clarification. This means that if you don't get pregnant after twelve months if you are under 35, you should seek professional help. From 35, you should take this step after just six months. If you have problems such as polycystic ovaries, endometriosis or inflammation of the fallopian tubes, it is best to consult an expert as soon as you want to have children.

What could be the reasons for not getting pregnant?

Dr Schenk: The wrong timing often plays a role. If a woman doesn't know exactly when her Ovulation and their fertile days, then of course it will be difficult to get pregnant. That's why my first step is always to recommend the femSense smart ovulation tracker to my patients. The sensor patch reliably measures the body temperature, recognises the post-ovulatory temperature rise and thus provides information on when and whether ovulation has taken place. However, if it still hasn't worked after 3 months, you should have it checked to see if there are other causes.

What steps should be considered before IVF?

Dr Schenk: When couples have a unfulfilled desire to have children they usually take the first steps themselves, such as LH tests, temperature measurement methods and the like. We carried out an internal big data analysis at our practice and realised that, on average, couples only come to us at the age of 37. However, they have already known for an average of 5 (!) years that they want a child. They usually spend these 5 years googling, asking friends and visiting several gynaecologists until they finally end up in my practice. The crux of the matter is that the most important asset that affected couples have is time. That means we have to do everything we can to get them to see a fertility specialist early on and not think about what else they should do first.

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What does the typical IVF path look like?

Dr Schenk: The typical IVF process is easy to explain. First of all, you need to clarify whether there are any physical factors such as a vitamin D deficiency, a selenium deficiency or an underactive thyroid, for which you should take medication ahead of time. An ultrasound is then carried out around the 20th day of the cycle to clarify the further course of treatment.

On the first or second day of the following menstrual period, a blood sample is taken to see if the specific cycle is hormonally good. You then start taking FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) in the lowest possible dosage in order to achieve nine to fourteen eggs. However, this can vary, sometimes only 2-6 eggs are achieved. Only the eggs that can be made to grow are selected, so to speak. An injection is then added to prevent ovulation so that everything can be planned. In between, ultrasound examinations are carried out again and again.

Around the fourteenth day of the cycle, the eggs are retrieved and fertilised in the Petri dish. The embryo transfer takes place three to five days later. After a further fifteen days, a blood sample is taken to determine whether the pregnancy test is positive.

Who is IVF suitable for?

Dr Schenk: Artificial insemination is suitable for all couples who have not been able to conceive naturally. Another advantage of IVF fertilisation is that you have the "pleasure of choice", so to speak. This means that, as already mentioned, all the recruited follicles in the cycle are made to grow and you can therefore find the eggs that are particularly promising in terms of both morphology and morphokinetics.

Do you have a take-home message for all couples with an unfulfilled desire to have children?

Dr Schenk: My take-home message, even if it sounds unromantic, is to include the family plan in your career plan. The older you get, the fewer genetically fit eggs you have available as a woman and that's why you shouldn't forget that the optimum time window for getting pregnant is actually in your 20s. However, if this is not compatible with your career or the ideal partner is not yet available, you should simply keep this in mind and then, if you are planning a pregnancy in your mid-30s and it doesn't work out in time, it is better to consult a fertility expert too early than too late.

Thank you very much for the interview and the exciting insights on the topic of fertility and artificial insemination!

Tina is the Marketing Manager at femSense and firmly believes that great things happen when women support and empower each other, because in this "men's-world" there clearly needs to be more sisterhood. She lives in harmony with her superpower aka her cycle and writes about all the topics that matter.

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