In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a process by which mature eggs are removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilized in a laboratory dish with sperm provided by her partner or donor sperm. The lab fertilization process may take 3 to 5 days for eggs to fertilize. The fertilized eggs (embryos) are then transferred to the woman’s uterus to increase the chance that pregnancy will develop.
When do you need In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
IVF is ideal for women with infertility problems caused by fallopian tubes blockage or damage. IVF is also used as alternative option for men with infertility problems caused by low quality sperm.
If the sperm is not able to penetrate the egg naturally, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) can be used to carry out IVF. ICSI is a process by which a single sperm is injected directly into the egg to begin the lab fertilization process.
If you are over the age of 40 and failed to get pregnant from your first attempt of intrauterine insemination (IUI), IVF is your next recommended option. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a more expensive procedure than intrauterine insemination (IUI). IUI is usually attempted first because it is the most common method used in artificial insemination.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Process
During your natural menstrual cycle you release only one egg per cycle and if you or your male partner has infertility problems, you have very low chance of getting pregnant. IVF process involves series of steps and techniques that are used to increase your chance of pregnancy. IVF process includes ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, fertilization, and embryo transfer.
Ovarian stimulation is the process that requires you to take fertility medications to help stimulate your ovaries develops multiple eggs to increase your chance of pregnancy. The fertility specialist may require you to take artificial hormones GnRH agonist to control your menstrual cycle and ovulation.
GnRH agonist is used to prevent natural ovulation from occurring that can interfere with the IVF process. Once natural ovulation takes place the release egg can never be retrieve later and use for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
GnRH agonist is usually administered by injection and about 14 days later the fertility specialist injects you with hormone gonadotropins that contain follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) to stimulate ovulation. Fertility medications used to stimulate the ovaries may increase the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
During ovarian stimulation, your fertility specialist will closely monitor your condition and the growth of the follicles (small sac that contains immature egg) within the ovaries by checking the estradiol levels in your blood and checking the follicles using ultrasounds.
When your eggs have matured enough and grown to certain size, you would be given a one-time injection called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to trigger the release of your eggs that occur between 38 and 40 hours after the injection. However, the egg is usually retrieved between 34 and 36 hours after the injection before the egg is release.
If you are feeling anxious about the procedure you may be given light medication to help you relax and to control the pain. The egg is retrieve by using an ultrasound-guided needle that is inserted into the vaginal wall to locate the follicles within the ovaries. The egg retrieval process may take about 20 minutes to complete and several eggs may be retrieve at one time.
If your male partner is providing sperm sample for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), semen are collected while your eggs are been retrieved. The collected semen is “washed” in a lab to separate motile sperms from seminal fluid and remove non-motile sperms to increase the chance of fertilization.
If donor sperm is used, the “washed sperm” would have been prepared and frozen by the sperm bank. The sperm will be thawed when it is needed for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
The sperm and eggs are combined in a culture dish and place in an incubator for about 12 to 24 hours. The dish is then inspected and if fertilization has taken place, the dish would remain in an incubator for about 3 to 5 days for eggs to fertilize.
If for some reasons the sperm cannot fertilize the egg or if the men have severe infertility problems caused by low quality sperm, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) can be used to fertilize the egg.
Usually the embryos are cultured for 3 days in an incubator before been transfer back into your uterus. In some cases the embryos are cultured for 5 days before been transfer back into your uterus.
The number of embryos transfer depends on your age and infertility problems. If you are over the age of 40, you can have maximum three embryos transfer to increase your chance of pregnancy. If you are younger, you can only have one or two embryos transfer to your uterus in one cycle.
Before embryos transfer you may be given progesterone to help thicken uterus lining so that the embryos are more likely to implant in your uterus. Progesterone supplements can be taken as pill, applications gel, or administer by injection.
The transfer process involves using catheter that is inserted through your cervix and the embryos are transfer into your uterus guided by ultrasound. After the embryos transfer you will need to wait 2 weeks before taking pregnancy test.
If the test is positive, your fertility specialist will monitor your pregnancy closely with occasion blood test and ultrasound to be certain all is going well and to increase your chance of successful pregnancy.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure increases the chance of developing multiple pregnancies because maximum of three embryos can be transfer in one cycle. Multiple birth increases the risk of pregnancy complications such as premature labor, birth defects, low birth weight, or miscarriage.
Extra embryos are frozen for future use in case you fail to get pregnant from the first attempt or your first attempt was successful and you decide to have another baby. If you fail to get pregnant from the first attempt of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and depending on your infertility problems, it is best to discussed with your fertility specialist about your next option.
No one wants to go through the fail attempt of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) because it hurts. This is part of the IVF process, but again starting a family and having your own children make this process worthwhile.
Return from In Vitro Fertilization to Conception