What is IVF?
IVF (in vitro fertilization) is a fertility treatment that involves giving yourself daily injections of fertility medications to stimulate your ovaries to grow multiple eggs. When the eggs are mature, they are collected under anesthesia with a very fine needle guided by ultrasound. The eggs are fertilized with sperm in the lab and then, any resulting embryos can be placed back into your uterus or frozen for use later when you’re ready to have a baby.
Is IVF right for you?
To help determine if IVF is the best course of treatment, you and your partner (if applicable) will first undergo comprehensive fertility testing. Testing includes bloodwork, a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), an ultrasound and semen analysis. The results of these tests, along with your medical history, help your doctor develop a personalized treatment plan.
Here are some instances in which IVF might be recommended to help you grow your family.
Fallopian tube problems
If one or both of your fallopian tubes are blocked, an egg can’t travel down from the ovary to the uterus. IVF bypasses the fallopian tubes entirely and instead, your doctor places an embryo directly into the uterus after fertilization occurred in the lab.
It’s still possible to get pregnant if your ovary is working correctly on the side with the blocked fallopian tube. But it does make it more challenging if you have other conditions that affect fertility, such as endometriosis.
Endometriosis can cause scar tissue or adhesions to build up around your fallopian tubes and ovaries making it difficult to become pregnancy. If these adhesions affect the fallopian tubes, they can impair fertilization of the egg with the sperm, which typically occurs in the fallopian tube or can impair the fertilized egg from traveling to the uterus. Ovarian endometriosis can cause an inflammatory reaction potentially decreasing your ovarian reserve (quantity and quality of eggs). Using IVF, we can stimulate the ovaries of a woman with a lower egg reserve to create more eggs and the embryo can be transferred directly to the uterus without the need for fallopian tubes.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and irregular menstrual cycles
If you have PCOS, you may not release an egg from your ovaries every month, even if the egg is mature. This is due to hormone imbalances and is one of the most common causes of infertility. Since fertility medications can help you ovulate, the IVF process can help you become pregnant. Even if you don’t have PCOS, you may still not ovulate every month. If you have irregular periods, your doctor may suggest IVF, especially if other fertility treatments haven’t been successful.
Egg quality issues
Unfortunately, as you age, your eggs decline in quality and it becomes increasingly difficult to become or stay pregnant. With IVF, you can either select the healthiest eggs to fertilize through preimplantation genetic testing, or you can use donor eggs to conceive.
Male factor infertility
Your male partner might have issues with their sperm including:
- Low sperm count
- Conditions where no sperm are present, such as after radiation treatment for cancer
- Impairments in how sperm move or are shaped
- Blockage or absence of the vas deferens, where sperm can’t leave the body
In many cases of male factor infertility, pregnancy is still possible using IVF. This is because the embryologist can separate out a single healthy sperm and inject it directly into the egg in the laboratory using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
Would you like to find out if IVF is right for you? Contact us today to schedule an appointment with a CCRM Fertility specialist.
Written By: Dr. Dorette Noorhasan, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist and co-founder and medical director of CCRM Dallas-Fort Worth.