Is In Vitro Fertilization?
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a type of assistive reproductive
technology (ART). It involves retrieving eggs from a woman’s ovaries and
fertilizing them with sperm. This fertilized egg is known as an embryo. The embryo can then be frozen
for storage or transferred to a woman’s uterus.
Depending on your situation, IVF can use:
- your eggs and your partner’s sperm
- your eggs and donor sperm
- donor eggs and your partner’s sperm
- donor eggs and donor sperm
- donated embryos
Your doctor can also implant embryos in a surrogate, or
gestational carrier. This is a woman who carries your baby for you.
The success rate of IVF varies. According to the American
Pregnancy Association, the live birth rate for women under age 35
undergoing IVF is 41 to 43 percent. This rate falls to 13 to 18 percent for
women over the age of 40.
Is In Vitro Fertilization Performed?
IVF helps people with infertility who want to have a baby. IVF is
expensive and invasive, so couples often try other fertility treatments first.
These may include taking fertility drugs or having intrauterine insemination. During that procedure, a doctor
transfers sperm directly into a woman’s uterus.
Infertility issues for which IVF may be necessary include:
- reduced fertility in women over the age of 40
- blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- reduced ovarian function
- uterine fibroids
- male infertility, such as low sperm count or
abnormalities in sperm shape
- unexplained infertility
Parents may also choose IVF if they run the risk of passing a
genetic disorder on to their offspring. A medical lab can test the embryos for
genetic abnormalities. Then, a doctor only implants embryos without genetic
Do I Prepare for In Vitro Fertilization?
Before beginning IVF, women will first undergo ovarian reserve testing. This involves
taking a blood sample and testing it for the level of follicle stimulating
hormone (FSH). The results of this test will give your doctor information about
the size and quality of your eggs.
Your doctor will also examine your uterus. This may involve doing
an ultrasound, which
uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of your uterus. Your doctor
may also insert a scope through your vagina and into your uterus. These tests
can reveal the health of your uterus and help the doctor determine the best way
to implant the embryos.
Men will need to have sperm testing. This involves giving a semen
sample, which a lab will analyze for the number, size, and shape of the sperm.
If the sperm are weak or damaged, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
may be necessary. During ICSI, a technician injects sperm directly into the
egg. ICSI can be part of the IVF process.
Choosing to have IVF is a very personal decision. There are a
number of factors to consider.
- What will you do with any unused embryos?
- How many embryos do you wish to transfer? The
more embryos transferred, the higher the risk of a multiple pregnancy. Most
doctors won’t transfer more than two embryos.
- How do you feel about the possibility of having
twins, triplets, or a higher order multiple pregnancy?
- What about the legal and emotional issues
associated with using donated eggs, sperm, and embryos or a surrogate?
- What are the financial, physical, and emotional
stresses associated with IVF?
Is In Vitro Fertilization Performed?
There are five steps involved in IVF:
A woman normally produces one egg during each menstrual cycle.
However, IVF requires multiple eggs. Using multiple eggs increases the chances
of developing a viable embryo. You’ll receive fertility drugs to increase the
number of eggs your body produces. During this time, your doctor will perform regular
blood tests and ultrasounds to monitor the production of eggs and to let your
doctor know when to retrieve them.
Egg retrieval is known as follicular aspiration. It’s a surgical procedure performed with
anesthesia. Your doctor will use an ultrasound wand to guide a needle through
your vagina, into your ovary, and into an egg-containing follicle. The needle
will suction eggs and fluid out of each follicle.
The male partner will now need to give a semen sample. A
technician will mix the sperm with the eggs in a petri dish. If that doesn’t
produce embryos, your doctor may decide to use ICSI.
Your doctor will monitor the fertilized eggs to ensure that they’re
dividing and developing. The embryos may undergo testing for genetic conditions
at this time.
When the embryos are big enough, they can be implanted. This
normally occurs three to five days after fertilization. Implantation involves inserting
a thin tube called a catheter inserted
into your vagina, past your cervix, and into your uterus. Your doctor then
releases the embryo into your uterus.
Pregnancy occurs when the
embryo implants itself in the uterine wall. This can take 6 to 10 days. A blood
test will determine if you’re pregnant.
Are the Complications Associated with In Vitro Fertilization?
As with any medical procedure, there are risks associated with
IVF. Complications include:
- multiple pregnancies, which increases the risk
of low birth weight and premature birth
- miscarriage (pregnancy loss)
- ectopic pregnancy (when the eggs implant outside
- ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a rare
condition involving an excess of fluid in the abdomen and chest
- bleeding, infection, or damage to the bowels or
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
Deciding whether to undergo in vitro fertilization, and how to
try if the first attempt is unsuccessful, is an incredibly complicated
decision. The financial, physical, and emotional toll of this process can be
difficult. Speak with your doctor extensively to determine what your best
options are and if in vitro fertilization is the right path for you and your
family. Seek a support group or counselor to help you and your partner through