In Vitro Fertilization is a form of assisted reproductive technology. The procedure involves combining an egg with a sperm sample in a laboratory and then transferring it back into the female's uterus.
Below the average prices for one cycle of In Vitro Fertilization across countries using own eggs.
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is a procedure which involves fertilising the egg of a female outside the human body. Instead of sperm fertilising the egg within the uterus, fertilisation takes place in laboratory conditions, and the resultant embryo is then implanted in the woman's uterus.
The process is commonly used in cases where women are unable to conceive naturally, which could be due to conditions like endometriosis, damaged fallopian tubes or simply unexplained infertility. And it's also used in cases where men suffer from low sperm count or sperm motility.
Here is a breakdown of how In Vitro Fertilization works step by step.
1. Hormone therapy
The IVF process actually starts long before the treatment itself. First, the woman will be prescribed a round of fertility medications in order to stimulate egg production. It is important for the woman to have as many eggs as possible available for extraction because this increases the likelihood that a healthy, viable embryo will be created. Along with the fertility medications, the doctors will perform ultrasounds and blood tests to make sure that the woman's ovaries are healthy and that her hormone levels are where they need to be.
2. Egg aspiration
The second step in the IVF process involves extracting eggs from the woman. When medical staff have determined that the patient is ready, they begin the "retrieval" phase. Injections are administered which stimulate ovulation and they are captured just at the moment they leave the patient's follicles.
The procedure is minor and involves guiding a hollow needle into the pelvic region to obtain the eggs. The specialist utilizes ultrasound imaging throughout the procedure to make it as quick and efficient as possible.The procedure typically lasts around 30 minutes. Throughout the operation, the woman is medicated and comfortably resting to minimize any potential pain or discomfort.
3. Sperm preparation
Once the eggs have been extracted, the man will be asked to provide a sperm sample to combine with the eggs. If the woman is utilizing a sperm bank, the previously selected donor sperm will be combined with her eggs.
4. Egg fertilization
Once the eggs and sperm have been collected, the process of manual fertilization can begin. This is called insemination, and it involves carefully combining the sperm and eggs in a laboratory dish.
5. Embryo development
The eggs are stored and carefully monitored to ensure that proper fertilization is happening and that the cells are dividing correctly. In general, it can take anywhere from three to five days before the fertilized eggs have developed into embryos.
6. Embryo transfer
When the embryos are ready, the women returns for a second procedure, where either a single or a group of embryos is placed inside her uterus.
This transfer is usually done with a small, thin tube inserted into the uterus. While this procedure is generally painless, some women do experience cramping or mild discomfort.
After that, a third visit is generally required to test for signs of pregnancy, which generally takes place a couple of weeks after the embryos are implanted.
IVF is successful in roughly 30% of cases, so patients should be aware that there is a likelihood that they will not become pregnant. Expectations also should be adjusted by age. Women under the age of 35 have a 40% chance of achieving pregnancy via IVF, while the figure for those aged over 40 is just 11%.
IVF procedures should not be painful, although minor cramping and discomfort can accompany the implantation stage. Side effects are generally mild, but can include constipation, breast tenderness, hot flashes, weight gain, nausea and headaches. However, recovery from the implantation is virtually instant, and patients can leave the clinic on the same day.
Women may also experience psychological side effects of the IVF process. The hormones used to stimulate egg production are associated with mood swings and depression, while the anxiety of seeking a successful result can also be psychologically challenging. However, these symptoms tend to be temporary, being caused by spikes in estrogen levels during the fertility cycle.
Within 2 weeks of implantation, couples should know whether the process has been successful. At that stage, other complications are possible, such as ectopic or multiple pregnancies. Both are more likely when IVF is used, and ectopic pregnancies in particular will need additional treatment to ensure the safety of the mother. However, it's important to bear in mind the vast majority of successful implantations result in a healthy foetus.
It's also important to remember that if IVF is unsuccessful, there may be another chance. Much of the time, women undergoing IVF produce too many eggs for implantation, and these eggs can be stored for future use. So the process can be repeated if the patient desires.