You may have seen the recent research published in The Medical Journal of Australia and ABC News yesterday showing that women who go through multiple rounds of IVF have a significantly higher chance of having a baby.

Why is this the case?  Is it just a numbers game?  So long as the egg and sperm are put together resulting in a healthy embryo which is transferred to a healthy womb, then changes of a healthy pregnancy should be pretty good.  Right?

The fact is there are many more factors at play. 

As Conceive Baby Expert Panellist Dr Sonja Jessup, succinctly explains in one of our previous articles “One of the ways to help us understand how conception works is to view the two main building blocks, the egg and sperm, as very small machines – like teeny, tiny computers. And just like any computer, the egg and sperm will only work according to what they are made up of and how they are put together.”

“Inside the eggs and sperm are the codes (DNA) which form the operating system for these tiny computers. In eggs and sperm this operating system (like Windows) controls how the rest of the egg/sperm machine works. This operating system is made up of genes. Bundles of genes together are called chromosomes. Unfortunately for humans, our bodies are not always very good at making operating systems (perhaps a lot like Microsoft itself) and most of the time the body makes an egg, the code is not normal.”

For women, we start with around 100 immature eggs (follicles) 90 days before ovulation.  During these critical 90 days we refine and refine these immature eggs until the most spectacularly healthy egg is released every 30 days (on average) at ovulation.  This egg is known as the dominant follicle.

If this ‘prize egg’ or dominant follicle is created, nurtured and matured in optimal conditions, then it is likely to have a good operating system and provide a good chance of creating a baby.  If this dominant follicle was created and developed in a stressed, nutrient poor environment, chances of it having a healthy operating system and creating a baby are limited.

Dr Jessup further clarifies that “by the time many people reach the point of needing IVF, perhaps only one in 10 eggs has a normal operating system within it (or contains normal genes or chromosomes). It is likely that the same conditions also apply to sperm. Therefore, most of the eggs and sperm that are received by scientists who undertake the IVF techniques, will not have operating systems capable of making a normal embryo. 

To make things more difficult, embryos that have an abnormal operating system can still result in pregnancies but are not strong enough to progress to a healthy pregnancy and birth, eventuating in miscarriage.

Therefore, the ability to become pregnant and have a healthy baby is not simply whether eggs and sperm are together at the same time. It means the eggs and sperm need to have a normal operating system, and also need to have been manufactured (or matured) properly. If, and only if, all of these conditions are met is there the possibility of a normal pregnancy occurring.”

Diet and lifestyle are critical to optimising the operating systems of both egg and sperm to increase chances of a healthy pregnancy and birth.  These include maintaining a healthy weight, healthy diet and exercise and avoiding nutritional deficiencies, particularly folate, choline, iron and vitamin B12.

Having multiple cycles, will of course increase the chances of retrieving an egg and sperm with normal, healthy operating systems to produce a healthy baby.

You can see more about why multiple cycles result in higher success rates in this informative webinar with Fertility Specialists Dr David Knight and Dr Sonya Jessup.