Jennifer Aniston recently opened up to Allure magazine detailing her challenges with trying to conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF). The 53-year-old actress has typically been silent on her struggles over the years but revealed she was trying to start a family a few years ago.
"I was trying to get pregnant," she told Allure. "It was a challenging road for me, the baby-making road."
In vitro fertilization is a series of medical procedures used to assist conception. People typically turn to IVF for numerous reasons, infertility among them.
While other less invasive methods are available, IVF is used for patients older than age 40 who are trying to become pregnant, same-sex couples and single parents, according to Mayo Clinic.
Throughout Aniston's career, the topic of her fertility has been on the minds of many people, and some have openly speculated it was the cause of an ended marriage. In the interview, she addressed how difficult it was to hear these rumors.
"All the years and years and years of speculation...it was really hard," she said. "I was going through IVF, drinking Chinese teas, you name it. I was throwing everything at it."
What to expect with IVF
IVF is conducted in a series of steps that include ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, sperm retrieval, fertilization and embryo transfer. One cycle can take two to three weeks or more, and the process may require multiple attempts.
If you are using your own eggs during this process, ovarian stimulation is the first step. You take hormones to stimulate the ovaries in order to produce multiple eggs at a time for retrieval. If the result of an ultrasound after a few weeks of taking hormones reveals your eggs are ready for retrieval, you then undergo a retrieval procedure between 34 and 36 hours after your last hormone injection. If for some reason your ultrasound comes back with complications, your IVF cycle is canceled to avoid potential risks.
The next step is sperm retrieval and fertilization. Of the eggs retrieved from you or a donor, the healthy mature ones are mixed with sperm, either from your partner or a donor, and hopefully, this produces multiple fertilized embryos that can then be planted in the uterus. Extra embryos can be frozen. A few weeks after implantation, you undergo a pregnancy test.
While reflecting on her experience, Aniston said she wishes she had known more about freezing her eggs.
"I would've given anything if someone had said to me, 'Freeze your eggs. Do yourself a favor,'" she said in the interview. "You just don't think it. So here I am today. The ship has sailed."
Success rates of IVF
The effectiveness of IVF is influenced by a variety of lifestyle and genetic variables, as well as the choice of the best reproductive clinic. Both parents' fertility, including the ability of women to ovulate and men to produce sperm, is another factor in success.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers an IVF Success Estimator for expectant parents to have an idea of their chances of having a live birth using IVF.
The costs and risks of IVF
IVF can prove a costly and stressful process, however, many people consider it. Each year, hundreds of thousands of couples in the United States use IVF to conceive. Outside of the cost for the procedure itself, you should also consider the costs of possible testing needed, medication and follow-up care.
IVF poses risks such as multiple births, premature delivery, hyperstimulation of the ovaries, miscarriage, egg retrieval complications, ectopic pregnancy, birth defects and stress.
While Aniston did not reveal why she chose IVF or her age when she pursued the procedure, she said she has "zero regrets."
"I actually feel a little relief now because there is no more 'Can I? Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.' I don't have to think about that anymore," she said in the interview.
The road to having children can be tumultuous, but it's important to consider all factors when choosing IVF. Everything from financial cost to your mental health to whether the IVF cycles will prove successful are all details to keep in mind.