In Vitro Fertilization

In vitro fertilization, IVF, is the process of combining a man’s sperm with a woman’s egg, outside the body, in a laboratory dish, to promote fertilization. Later, one or more of the fertilized eggs are transferred into the woman’s uterus.

How in vitro fertilization works

In vitro fertilization is a type of assisted reproductive technology that can help couples realize their dream of having a baby. Fertility specialists usually reserve in vitro fertilization for couples that have unsuccessfully attempted other methods for becoming pregnant. However, for many couples it represents the best, and in some cases the only real chance for achieving pregnancy.

The first step in the process is ovarian stimulation. Daily hormone injections are given to the woman to increase egg production. Normally, the ovaries release only one egg each month, but these fertility drugs stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. A reproductive endocrinologist then uses blood tests and ultrasound to assess the maturity of the eggs and, at the right time, the eggs are retrieved.

Some women experience nausea, bloating, mood swings and fatigue while taking the fertility injections. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and resolve after egg retrieval.

Egg retrieval is a surgical procedure done under sedation. Using a vaginal ultrasound probe for guidance, a thin needle is passed through the vagina into the follicles on the ovary. The process is then repeated on the opposite ovary. All visible eggs are gently suctioned into sterile test tubes, checked for maturity and transferred to a culture dish.

Many women experience no ill effects with IVF, but it is possible to have mild to moderate pelvic discomfort for a day or two after the procedure.

Following the egg retrieval, all mature eggs are mixed sperm that have been obtained that day. This process is called insemination. Within a few hours, fertilization takes place. When the fertilized egg divides, it becomes an embryo.

In approximately 3-5 days, the embryo is ready for transfer into the mother’s womb. One or two embryos are transferred during the procedure, which takes approximately 20 minutes. Most women go home shortly afterwards but are asked to rest the remainder of the day.

Sometimes, mild cramping and vaginal spotting occurs following embryo transfer. Very rarely, infection can develop, requiring antibiotics.

IVF Facts

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