Atlanta fertility specialist breaks down IVF

When it comes to getting pregnant, Dr. Desiree McCarthy-Keith urges couples to be patient.

The reproductive endocrinologist and medical director of Shady Grove Fertility, or SGF Atlanta, says for each month of trying, couples with no fertility issues have about a 1 in 5 chance of getting pregnant.

"Even when couples are fertile and have no fertility issues, they don't get pregnant every month," Dr. McCarthy-Keith says.

That is why McCarthy-Keith says most fertility centers recommend couples, with no risk factors for infertility, try conceiving for six to 12 months, before they seek fertility care.

One option, once you are ready, is IVF, or in vitro fertilization.

"We're basically taking that fertilization that happens naturally in the body, and we're taking that process into the laboratory," McCarthy-Keith says.

She says couples may come to IVF for many reasons.

"Whether it's the sperm count, the egg factor, the tubes, there are so many things that can factor into how likely a couple is to get pregnant and have a successful cycle," she says.  "The age of the woman and her eggs is also a big factor."


Dr. McCarthy-Keith's patients, 36-year-old Dr. Lauren Powell, and her husband Karl, got pregnant last year with their first cycle of IVF, after two unsuccessful rounds of treatment at another fertility clinic.

Still, she cautions, most couples need at least two or three IVF cycles to conceive.

"And this is why we stimulate the ovaries," McCarthy-Keith says. "We don't want to go through the IVF process from one egg.  We stimulate many eggs to grow, and from the eggs that we collect, a fraction of them. We'll fertilize them, and a fraction of those will be healthy embryos that we'll use."

They can also screen embryos, or fertilized eggs, before they are implanted for chromosomal abnormalities.

Dr. McCarthy-Keith says that can boost the chances of success.

"If a woman is younger, in her thirties, the chance of an IVF pregnancy is going to be 50%," she says.  "If we test the embryo and confirm it's chromosomally normal, the chance of pregnancy can be close to 70%."

McCarthy-Keith says a cycle of IVF can cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

She says fertility centers will often bundle two or three cycles to make the process less expensive.