A Practical Guide to IVF

December 14, 2007

Many women are able to get pregnant on their own, without any outside intervention.  For those women with difficulty getting pregnant, however, there are a number of options today that can aid a woman in conception.  One of these options, and the most popular one used by most women, is In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF. Research has shown that 95% of women who use some type of medical intervention to become pregnant use IVF. So, what is this procedure and is it right for you?

What is IVF?

IVF is a procedure that takes a woman's egg and the man's sperm and creates an embryo in a lab with them.  This embryo is then transferred into the woman's uterus through the cervix and pregnancy is, hopefully, able to happen.  This fertility treatment is done in conjunction with other procedures.  Women trying IVF will undergo ovulation induction, where she is given drugs to create ovulation and to increase her production of eggs.  Her hormone levels will be under constant monitoring and she'll have monitoring with ultrasounds.

Who Can Undergo IVF and Will It Work?

You'll need to consult with a doctor, of course, to see if IVF is right for you.  IVF can help with many unexplained fertility problems.  It also helps with women who have fallopian tubes that are blocked or harmed and with women who have ovarian issues.  IVF helps with the ovulation process and can help women with these issues.  It also helps in situations where men have a low sperm count or where men have problems with sperm function. 

While there are no guarantees that it will work, the average couple that has been deemed appropriate for IVF treatments will need three attempts with IVF before becoming pregnant.  Of course, this all depends on the couple's diagnosis and on their own personal situation.

How Does IVF Work?

First, the woman will be put on drugs to help with ovulation induction so that she will ovulate, and even produce more than one egg in a cycle.  This will increase the chances of creating a fertilized egg and of becoming pregnant.  Once a number of potential eggs have been produced, fertility specialists are able to remove these eggs from the ovaries and attempt fertilization with the sperm they've retrieved.  The doctors will try to retrieve more than one mature egg so that multiple eggs can be fertilized, for a higher chance of success. 

Egg Retrieval

In order to retrieve the eggs, you'll go to your fertility clinic or to a hospital that's aligned with your clinic.  A specialist, using a needle, will retrieve between 5 and 20 eggs from your ovaries.  You'll have anesthesia and will need to remain in the hospital for a few hours after the 15-30 minute process is complete.  Doctors will immediately examine the eggs to see if they are viable and will then place them in an incubator.

Then, these eggs will be combined with sperm from your partner or donor.  The eggs will remain overnight and will be checked in the morning for fertilization.  If fertilization has taken place, then you are ready for the embryo transfer. 

Embryo Transfer

You'll return to the hospital or clinic and a skilled reproductive endocrinologist will put the embryos into your uterus.  This is either done on the third day of fertilization or on the fifth day, depending on your doctor's philosophy.  Usually, between two and four embryos are implanted, although the number depends on a number of factors.  Obviously, if more are transferred to you, this increases your chances of having multiple births and of all of the complications that come with this situation.

The procedure is painless and does not require any anesthesia.  You'll discuss your options with your doctor and can even see pictures of the embryos before transfer.  A special catheter will be used to place the embryos far up into your cervix and up into your uterus.  Using an ultrasound, the physician will place the embryos in the best place inside your uterus. 

You'll rest for a few hours before going home and will then rest for another two days at home.  At this point, you'll be able to continue your normal activities.  12 days later, you'll return to the doctor to see if you've had success and are, indeed, pregnant.

IVF is a lot of work, and it's not an easy process.  It is, however, one that has shown to be very successful and to help couples to fulfill their dream of having their own baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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