In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process of fertilization where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body in a laboratory , in vitro.
The process involves monitoring a woman’s ovulation process, removing an ovum from the woman’s ovaries , extracting sperm and letting the sperm fertilize the eggs in a laboratory, the resulting embryos are assessed for quality, and one or more are placed in the uterus through the cervix. Pregnancy happens if any of the embryo implant in the lining of the uterus
IVF is one of the most widely known and used type of assisted reproductive technology(ART) procedure using a high tech combination of medicine and surgical processes. About 1.5 percent of babies born in the United States are conceived using ART.
Is IVF for me?
IVF helps in increasing your chances of getting pregnant if you’re having fertility problems, if your partner has problems with sperm count or motility; or if you’re using donor eggs to become pregnant.
In the case of people with any of the fertility issues highlighted above, IVF might be an option especially if other treatments have been unsuccessful or if the cause of the infertility cannot be determined.
While IVF can help, there is no guarantee that everybody will be successful with this procedure. Everyone’s body is different and IVF won’t work for everyone.
How does IVF work?
IVF has many steps and it takes several months to complete the process.
The first step is Ovary stimulation. This is simply taking fertility medication including a synthetic hormone like leuprolide or cetrorelix for eight to 14 days near the beginning of your menstrual cycle. The leuprolide helps in keeping the body from releasing the eggs too early while the fertility drug gonadotropin helps in developing multiple mature eggs that are ready for fertilization.
During the period you are taking the medications, you may need to carry out regular ultrasounds or blood tests to measure your hormones level. This can be done at a fertility clinic or your doctor’s office and allows them to monitor the development of the follicles(the fluid-filled sacs where eggs mature). A trigger shot(an injection) is usually given to help in maturing the eggs fully
Once your eggs are matured fully, your doctor removes the eggs from your body in a process called egg retrieval, usually about 36 hours after your trigger shot.
To retrieve the eggs, you’ll get an anesthetic to help you be relaxed during the procedure. An ultrasound is inserted through your vagina to see inside your body. A thin needle is then inserted into the ovary and follicles that holds your eggs. The needle is connected to a suction device that gently pulls the eggs out of each follicle. 8- 15 eggs are usually retrieved. You may experience some cramping and spotting for a few days afterwards.
An embryologist will examine your eggs before combining them with your partner’s sperm in a special container and incubating them in the laboratory overnight. This process is known as Fertilization. If fertilization doesn’t happen after this, maybe due to poor sperm, a single sperm could be injected directly into each mature egg using a technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
About 3 days after egg retrieval, some of the eggs that were successfully fertilized become 6- 10-celled embryos. By the fifth day, some of these embryos will become blastocysts with a fluid-filled cavity and tissues that are beginning to separate into placenta and baby. The embryologist then selects the most viable embryo or embryos to place in your uterus three to five days after the egg retrieval. This is called Embryo Transfer. Extra embryos, if there are any, may be frozen and used for future IVF cycles.
To do the transfer, your doctor inserts a thin tube through your cervix into your uterus, and inserts between one and five embryos directly into your uterus through the tube. You might feel some mild cramping during this process, but other than that, it is generally not painful.
Pregnancy occurs once the treatment is successful and an embryo implants in your uterine wall and continues to grow into a baby. Keep in mind that if more than one embryo is transferred, your chance of pregnancy is higher, but so are the odds of having a multiple pregnancy – about 20 percent of babies born through IVF are twins, triplets, or more.
You can take a pregnancy test about two weeks after the embryos are placed in your uterus.
How long will IVF take?
One cycle of IVF takes anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. This includes waiting for the eggs to mature, having the eggs fertilized and getting the embryos inserted into your uterus.
What’s the success rate for IVF?
This depends on a number of factors. Your age, fertility problem are some contributing factors to the success rate of IVF. Younger women less than 35 years have a 40% success rate based on data collected. This percentage reduces with age.
What are the pros of IVF?
IVF is the oldest assisted reproductive technology procedure and has been around long enough for researchers and scientists to have done extended research into its process and implications or side effects on mother and children born through this process.
So far, there has been no medical problems directly linked to the procedure and no link to any cancers of the female reproductive system.
Also, researchers continue to improve on the procedure and technique leading to better and successful outcomes for couples.
What are the cons of IVF?
It is time consuming and expensive. The frequent trips to the doctor’s office, monitoring your response to the treatment and the time spent working in the lab can put a toll on the couples using IVF.
IVF is known to lead to multiple babies as a result of the amount of embryo placed in the uterus. This could increase your chances of having a miscarriage and other complications. IVF researchers are working on techniques to prevent multiple fetuses. There is also the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. This is not fully tied to IVF as women who have difficulty getting pregnant already run the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. All assisted reproductive technology treatments make an ectopic pregnancy more likely. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants in a fallopian tube or the abdominal cavity rather than in the uterus. It’s treated with the medication methotrexate or by surgically removing the embryo to prevent it from severely injuring the mother by continuing to grow.
Other cons include potential complications for the babies who might be born prematurely or have a low birth weight and a slightly higher risk of birth defects. Risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).OHSS can happen when women respond too well to fertility drugs and produce too many eggs. About 10 to 20 percent of women who take gonadotropins develop a mild form of OHSS, a condition marked by weight gain and a full, bloated feeling. Some also have shortness of breath, dizziness, pelvic pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you have OHSS, your ovaries swell to several times the normal size and produce fluid that accumulates in your abdominal cavity. Normally this resolves itself with careful monitoring by a physician and bed rest. But in rare cases it’s life threatening, and you may have to be hospitalized for more intensive monitoring or treatment.
Talking with people who have been through fertility struggles and IVF can be really helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed. Counsellors and Therapists can also be sources of comfort.
What does IVF cost?
IVF is known to be expensive but the actual amount depends on a number of factors, like where you live, the amount of treatment or medicine you need and a lot of other factors. Speak to a licensed professional for actual cost.