What is IVF?
In Vitro Fertilization is a process an egg is obtained from a woman’s ovaries and fertilized by a sperm in a laboratory, outside the body. In Vitro means “in glass” in Latin. The fertilized egg, now an embryo, is then cultivated for 2 – 6 days before being implanted into a woman’s uterus in hope for a successful pregnancy.
Why is IVF performed?
IVF is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology. Despite this, it is not the first infertility treatment to be recommended by most fertility clinics. It is often used in cases where other treatments for infertility such as fertility drugs, artificial insemination and surgery have not succeeded.
IVF is also used when certain genetic disorders can be inherited. Parents can have their embryos checked for genetic abnormalities before being implanted to ensure these traits are not passed down.
What causes infertility?
Infertility is common and can be stressful for first-time parents or anyone who would like to have or have more children. The definition of infertility is the inability to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse.
There are many causes of infertility. It could derive from either the male or the female. In some cases, it can even come from both.
Age is an important factor. For women, their chances of conceiving begin to decline from the age of 32. As women age, their chances rapidly decrease, especially after the age of 37. Men start their decline at 35, by then they are half as fertile as they were at age 25.
Unfortunately, it can also be a combination of factors and other infertility issues such as low sperm count, endometriosis and ovulation problems. Sometimes there is no reason at all.
What happens in IVF?
IVF is a complex process which can be broken down into these main stages.
- Suppression of menstrual cycle:
By taking medication, the natural menstrual cycle is suppressed for about two weeks.
- Stimulating of eggs:
Once the natural cycle has been suppressed, a fertility hormone called Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is given for 10 -12 days. This hormone encourages the ovaries to produce more eggs. At this stage, the doctors will be monitoring the progress carefully; multiple blood tests and ultrasound scans may be performed.
- Egg retrieval:
The collection of eggs is also known as follicular aspiration. Using ultrasound, a needle is guided into the ovaries to retrieve the mature eggs. This is often done under sedation.
- Fertilization of the eggs:
The eggs and sperm are placed in a petri dish together to allow natural fertilization to occur. Any fertilized eggs are left to develop for up to 6 days. Their progress is monitored to evaluate the best embryos. The number of embryos most IVF experts would recommend to select is three, in order to maximise the chances of pregnancy.
- Transfer of the egg(s):
The embryos are transferred into the womb in a relatively straightforward procedure that is similar to a pap smear. A long, thin tube called a catheter is used to deposit the embryos into the uterus.
Pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants in the lining of the uterus. A pregnancy test can be taken after two weeks to determine whether the IVF treatment has worked.
What is the success rate of IVF?
Not every IVF treatment results in a successful pregnancy. The success rate of IVF is dependent on the age of the woman as well as the reason for infertility. Generally, younger women under the age of 35 have a higher success rate.
You may need to undergo more than one IVF cycle. Each IVF cycle is expensive. Unfortunately, not all health insurance companies will cover the costs involved in IVF treatment although there are some plans that may cover parts of the fertility treatment.
IVF risks and complications
It is also important to note that there are risks and complications with IVF treatments such as:
- side effects from medications used in IVF,
- multiple babies which can result in low-weight or premature births
- ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo attaches to one of the fallopian tubes instead
It is vital that you are fully aware of all the risks involved in your IVF treatment so ask your fertility doctor before you embark on your IVF journey.
Starting your IVF journey
Before you begin, you would need to consult a fertility doctor. But who do you see? It’s always good to get some advice and suggestions, isn’t it? We would recommend talking to many others who have been in your position.
We want to help many others like yourself. Our aim is to build an extensive list of IVF fertility clinics with real reviews of experiences and stories shared by their many patients.
To view some of the current clinics we have, click here.
To help us build our community, you can start by sharing your experience here.