WHAT IS IVF?
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a method of assisted reproduction in which sperm and eggs are combined in a laboratory setting to allow for fertilization outside of the body with subsequent transfer of the embryo back into the uterus.
WHO NEEDS IVF?
Infertility has been estimated to affect more than 7 million people in the United States alone. Many individuals or couples can be treated with less aggressive measures. However, when these more conservative measures fail or in circumstances in which they are not appropriate, IVF may become necessary.
IVF is commonly used by:
- Women with blocked or damaged fallopian tubes or no fallopian tubes at all
- Women who not ovulate and do not respond to less aggressive fertility treatments
- Women with current pregnancy loss / multiple miscarriages
- Men with extremely compromised sperm concentrations or don’t produce any sperm, including those who have had prior vasectomies or failed vasectomy reversals
- LGBTQ individuals or couples for family-building
- Single-by-choice parents for family-building
- In cases of unexplained infertility
- In instances when preimplantation genetic testing takes place
IVF is an extremely safe and effective process. The pregnancy rate by age is greater than that achieved with natural conception, although the rate of miscarriages with IVF pregnancies is about the same as those conceived naturally unless comprehensive chromosome screening (CCS) of embryos is performed, in which case, the miscarriage rate is significantly lower.
Here is an overview of how IVF works
First, you will inject fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce an increased number of eggs. A personalized medication protocol is developed based on your age, past history and results of both hormonal and ultrasound evaluations. You will return to the clinic every few days where you will be monitored carefully with ultrasound examinations and blood tests. Learn more about ovarian stimulation.
When the eggs are mature, they are retrieved through a minor surgical procedure performed under anesthesia, in which a needle is inserted through your vagina into the ovary to remove the eggs under direct ultrasound guidance. The fluid is then examined by skilled embryologists to isolate the eggs.
Next, a sperm sample is separated from the semen and carefully prepared. With conventional insemination techniques, a specific concentration of separated sperm is allowed to fertilize the eggs the lab. In other situations, a single sperm is injected into each egg through a procedure called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection).
The embryos are then incubated in a tightly controlled laboratory environment and are cultured 5 or 6 days (blastocyst stage) in a nutrient rich solution, also known as culture media.
At this point, the embryo(s) are transferred into your uterus using a painless ultrasound-guided approach or they are flash-frozen (vitrified). In instances of preimplantation genetic testing, all the the embryos will be frozen first and then transferred into your uterus.
About 9 to 11 days after the embryo transfer, you will take a pregnancy test via your blood.
Learn about the advantages of embryo freezing.