What is IVF?
In vitro fertilization, commonly referred to as IVF, is the process by which eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilized in a laboratory cultural dish (in vitro). The IVF process also includes ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, embryo transfer, and egg/embryo freezing.
Unlike Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), IVF involves additional steps which include egg retrieval, embryo creation, and embryo transfer. Since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.
The Process of IVF Treatment
Step 1: Stimulation
Medication and injections are administered to stimulate your ovaries to develop a greater number of mature eggs for fertilization. Your physician will create a personalized medication schedule that details the necessary fertility drugs and hormone injections you will need. Each woman responds to fertility drugs and hormones different, so one may experience certain side effects while another may not. Your provider will monitor you carefully, help you understand the changes in your body, and keep track of how your follicles are developing.
Step 2: Egg Retrieval and Sperm Collection
The egg retrieval is a minimally invasive procedure that lasts approximately 20-30 minutes. You will be put to sleep by anesthesia for the procedure. Using ultrasound technology, your physician will retrieve your eggs with a fine, hollow needle attached to an ultrasound scan probe. Once the eggs are retrieved, your partner’s fresh sample of semen or the frozen or donated sperm you have selected beforehand is obtained for fertilization. The sperm are washed, and the best-quality sperm extracted will be used to fertilize the eggs.
Step 3: Fertilization and Embryo Transfer
For fertilization to occur, the retrieved egg and highest-quality sperm is combined and left in a dish to culture in an incubator. The dish is checked on to see if any of the eggs have been fertilized. A fertilized egg is called an embryo, or a blastocyst on the fifth day of development. The healthiest embryos are chosen to be inserted into your (or a chosen surrogate’s) uterus. Two weeks after the embryo transfer, your physician will take a final blood test to measure the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels. Relatively high hCG typically suggests a positive pregnancy test.
Why consider IVF?
- Low sperm counts
- Problems with the uterus or blocked/damaged Fallopian tubes
- Problems with ovulation
- Antibody problems that harm sperm or eggs
- The inability of sperm to penetrate or survive in the cervical mucus
- Unsuccessful use of fertility drugs or other treatments such as IUI
- Unsuccessful after two year of trying to conceive
- Other unexplained reasons for infertility