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In vitro fertilization (IVF)

In vitro fertilization (IVF) helps with fertilization, embryo development, and implantation, so you can get pregnant.

How does IVF work?

IVF stands for in vitro fertilization. It’s one of the more widely known types of assisted reproductive technology (ART).  IVF works by using a combination of medicines and surgical procedures to help sperm fertilize an egg, and help the fertilized egg implant in your uterus.

First, you take medication that makes several of your eggs mature and ready for fertilization. Then the doctor takes the eggs out of your body and mixes them with sperm in a lab, to help the sperm fertilize the eggs. Then they put 1 or more fertilized eggs (embryos) directly into your uterus. Pregnancy happens if any of the embryos implant in the lining of your uterus.

IVF has many steps, and it takes several months to complete the whole process. It sometimes works on the first try, but many people need more than 1 round of IVF to get pregnant. IVF definitely increases your chances of pregnancy if you’re having fertility problems, but there’s no guarantee — everyone’s body is different and IVF won’t work for everyone.

What’s the IVF process?

The first step in IVF is taking fertility medications for several months to help your ovaries produce several eggs that are mature and ready for fertilization. This is called ovulation induction. You may get regular ultrasounds or blood tests to measure your hormone levels and keep track of your egg production.

Once your ovaries have produced enough mature eggs, your doctor removes the eggs from your body (this is called egg retrieval). Egg retrieval is a minor surgical procedure that’s done at your doctor’s office or at a fertility clinic.

You’ll get medicine to help you be relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. Using an ultrasound to see inside your body, the doctor puts a thin, hollow tube through your vagina and into the ovary and folliclesthat hold your eggs. The needle is connected to a suction device that gently pulls the

eggs outof each follicle.In a lab, your eggs are mixed with sperm cells from your

partner ora donor — this is called insemination. The eggs and sperm are stored

together ina special container, and fertilization happens. For sperm that have

lower motility (don’t swim as well), they may be injected directly into the eggs

to promote fertilization.

As the cells in the fertilized eggs divide and become embryos, people who work at

the lab monitor the progress.

About 3-5 days after the egg retrieval, 1 or more embryos are put into your uterus (this is called embryo transfer).  The doctor slides a thin tube through your cervix into your uterus, and inserts the embryo directly into your uterus through the tube.

Pregnancy happens if any of the embryos attach to the lining of your uterus.  Embryo transfer is done at your doctor’s office or at a fertility clinic, and it’s usually not painful.

Plan on resting for the rest of the day after your embryo transfer. You can go back to your normal activities the next day. You may also take pills or get daily shots of a hormone called progesterone for the first 8-10 weeks after the embryo transfer. The hormones make it easier for the embryo to survive in your uterus.

Who Gets IVF Procedure?

Infertility has a wide range of causes in both women and men. Treatment usually involves correcting the underlying problem with medication or surgery. But sometimes conventional treatment proves difficult, and couples turn to assisted contraception methods like IVF instead. For example, women with fallopian tube blockage often opt for IVF; since the fertilized egg is inserted directly into the uterus during the procedure, the tubes aren’t necessary for conception. Similarly, IVF procedure is common if the man has low sperm count (oligospermia) or a lack of sperm in ejaculate (azoospermia).

IVF Process: How is IVF Done?

“IVF involves handling of both eggs and sperm within the laboratory to allow for the fertilization of eggs and early development of embryos,” says Dr. Schutt. To prepare for IVF, a woman takes injectable fertility medications for approximately 10 days, during which the growth of her eggs is closely monitored. “When the eggs are ready to be collected (about 14 days later), the woman takes one final HCG injection that assists in maturation of the eggs – and 36 hours afterwards, the eggs are collected from the ovary,” says Dr. Schutt. Doctors use a narrow needle, suction device, and ultrasound imaging to retrieve the eggs. This IVF process usually involves anesthesia or sedation to relieve pain.

Next, the embryologist places the collected eggs on a Petri dish. She combines the eggs with sperm taken from the male in a process called insemination. If the sperm has low motility (impaired movement) the embryologist may insert sperm directly into the eggs (ICSI).The fertilized eggs, or embryos, are stored for three to seven days. "If genetic testing (chromosomal defect screening that lets you see the sex of the embryo) is to be performed, then the embryo is biopsied between the fifth and seventh day of development," adds Dr. Schutt. Note that some clinics allow you to choose the sex during genetic testing, while others do not. 

Finally, doctors transplant one or more embryos into the uterus with a catheter. Implantation – and subsequent pregnancy – usually takes place one or two weeks later.