What is IVF exactly?
Well, I am not a professional in this field but I will state the information as I understand it.
IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation which is basically fertility treatment where fertilisation takes place outside the body. You are given certain hormones to stimulate the ovaries to produce several eggs which are then collected along with a sample of sperm which are then placed together for fertilisation in a lab. If there are issues with sperm quality, such as low motility or numbers, then there is also an option to have a single sperm injected directly in to each egg. We did not need this option but our doctor suggested using this method for half of the eggs collected to improve chances of successful fertilisation.
If fertilisation is successful, the embryos are left to develop for a few days after which the most promising embryo is transferred back into your womb to hopefully implant successfully. The remaining embryos can then be frozen for future use.
What made you decide to do IVF? What is your personal story? How did you feel emotionally about the IVF process? How about your husband?
I was told I had PCOS around the age of 19. When my husband and I began dating I was 24. I told him about it and that if he wanted kids in future it may be more difficult than usual for me as I rarely get my period without medication.
At the end of 2018, when I had just turned 27, we decided we would go to a fertility clinic and start going through the processes to get pregnant as we didn’t know how long it would take.
After repeatedly not conceiving through rounds of Clomid about a year - we decided to try IVF. I was initially hesitant simply because I didn’t like the idea of external fertilization, but now that I have done it I am very grateful that such technology exists.
After collection of the eggs I was required to take some medication to bring on menstruation to reset my body and create the best possible environment for the embryo to implant when it was transferred back inside my body.
In Australia we say pregnancy is 9 months (because we don’t count those first four weeks before people find out they are pregnant) but in Japan they count 10 months. Thankfully our first round of IVF was a success. I found out when I was 4 weeks and 6 days pregnant.
How long is the whole process?
It varies quite a lot for everyone depending on the reasons you are doing it, meaning the complications you have in getting pregnant. One cycle of IVF for me took 2 months.
When doing your research about IVF, have you noticed anything that is done differently in Japan than in other countries i.e. Australia?
I have never actually researched this topic thoroughly for Australia as I was already living in Japan when we decided to think about having kids. However, there is an organization called IVFAustralia that has a website with a lot of details on options for fertility treatments, including IVF and many others.
How much are the costs?
As I have a Japanese healthcare card there were times when I was able to pay only 30% of the cost of some treatments, but unfortunately it does not cover options like IVF so we did have to cover the entire cost. There are lots of different options within fertility treatment so depending on which ones you choose and how many times you try each one then the amount you pay will vary greatly. For us, a year’s worth of different treatments including Clomid cycles and IVF totaled about 750,000yen.
The IVF alone cost about 375,000 including the money to keep our remaining eggs frozen.
There is actually a website by JHI (Japanese Healthcare Info) that answers a lot of questions regarding what the Japanese Healthcare System covers. It mentions that there is a subsidy for fertility treatments of up to 300,000 yen for first-time applications in Tokyo but that there are a number of request conditions and the paperwork process is complicated. I didn’t know this existed until recently so I have not tried applying for this myself.
How did you research for a clinic? Would that be a clinic also for non-Japanese-speaking parents-to-be?
My husband actually did most of the research to find a good clinic nearby and came with me for the initial visit so that we could fill out the all forms and confirm with the gynecologist what we wanted to do.
The clinic I attended is called Sangenjaya Women’s Clinic (https://www.sangenjaya-wcl.com). It is very clean with a lovely atmosphere and wonderful staff. There is only one gynecologist who is male but is very professional, kind and sincere. It is also nice to always have the same doctor. Unfortunately, they don’t have an English page for their website and I don’t think any of the staff speak much English. However, I did see a few other foreign women attending the clinic.
If you a know a little Japanese I think you would be fine going in for the different tests and if you have a Japanese speaker who can go with you to hear the explanations afterwards I would highly recommend this clinic.
Did you have to go back to the clinic once you were pregnant?
Yes, I went back there for my first few ultrasounds to check everything was progressing smoothly and then after they found the heartbeat I transferred to the hospital.
Would you do it again?
Yes, I intend to go back there for my second baby using the embryos we have frozen.
Is there something you can recommend to women in the same situation?
There are 2 things I would like to say:
First is, infertility can be very taxing on both your mind and body; all the injections, visits to the clinic, taking multiple tablets etc.. It can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, especially at first, but I found it useful to remind myself just how lucky we are to live in a time when this kind of technology exists.
The second is to try and approach the process with positivity. Positivity helps you feel calm and not stress about the process which I believe allows your body to relax and create the best possible environment for you to give a baby. Check out Alices website: https://alicenakae.wixsite.com/website