In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a kind of assistive reproductive technology (ART). It means retrieving eggs from a woman’s ovaries and fertilizing them with sperm. This fertilized egg is referred to as an embryo. The embryo can then be frozen for storage or sent to a woman’s uterus.
Base on your situation, IVF can use:
Your eggs and your partner’s sperm
Donor eggs and your partner’s sperm
Donor eggs and donor sperm
Your eggs and donor sperm
Your doctor can as well implant embryos in a surrogate, or gestational carrier. This is someone else who carries your baby for you.
IVF assist people with infertility who wants to have a baby. IVF is expensive and invasive, so couples always try other fertility treatments first. These may mean taking fertility drugs or having intrauterine insemination. At the time of the procedure, a doctor transfers sperm straight into a woman’s uterus.
Infertility problems for which IVF might also be necessary include:
Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
Reduced ovarian function
Low fertility in women over the age of 40
Male infertility, low sperm count or abnormalities in sperm shape
Before starting IVF, women will first undergo ovarian reserve testing. This entails taking a blood sample and testing it for the level of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). The results of this test will provide information your doctor about the size and quality of your eggs.
Your doctor will as well examine your uterus. This may mean doing an ultrasound, which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of your uterus. The doctor might even insert a scope through your vagina and into your uterus. These tests can reveal the health of your uterus and help the doctor know the best way to implant the embryos.
Men will require sperm testing. This involves providing a semen sample, which a lab will analyze for the number, size, and shape of the sperm. If the sperm are weak or damaged, a procedure known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be needed. At the time ICSI, a technician injects sperm directly into the egg. ICSI can be part of the IVF process.
There are five steps involved in IVF:
A woman normally produces one egg all through each menstrual cycle. However, IVF needs multiple eggs. Using multiple eggs increases the possibilities of developing a viable embryo. You will be given fertility drugs to increase the number of eggs your body produces. In this process, your doctor will perform constant blood tests and ultrasounds to monitor the production of eggs and to let your doctor know when to retrieve them.
Egg retrieval is referred to as follicular aspiration. It’s a surgical procedure performed with anesthesia. Your doctor will use an ultrasound wand to direct a needle through your vagina, into your ovary, and into an egg-containing follicle. The needle will pull eggs and fluid out of each follicle.
The male partner will now need to provide a semen sample. A technician will mix the sperm with the eggs in a petri dish. If that doesn’t produce embryos, your doctor may choose to use ICSI.
Your doctor will observe the fertilized eggs to make sure that they’re dividing and developing. The embryos may undergo testing for genetic conditions at this time.
When the embryos are big enough, they can be implanted. This generally happens three to five days after fertilization. Implantation involves inserting a thin tube known as a catheter inserted into your vagina, past your cervix, and into your uterus. Your doctor then releases the embryo into your uterus.
Pregnancy happens at the time when the embryo implants itself in the uterine wall. This can take 6 to 10 days. A blood test will identify if you’re pregnant.
As with any medical procedure, there are dangers associated with IVF. Complications include:
Multiple pregnancies, which increases the risk of low birth weight and untimely birth
Miscarriage (pregnancy loss)
Infection, bleeding, or damage to the bowels or bladder (rare)
Ectopic pregnancy (when the eggs implant outside the uterus)
A rare condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), involving an excess of fluid in the abdomen and chest
Choosing to undergo in vitro fertilization, and how to try if the first attempt is not successful, is an incredibly complicated decision. The financial, physical and emotional toll of this process can be hard. Discuss with your doctor extensively to know what your best options are and if in vitro fertilization is the right path for you and your family.
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