Womens Health

What is IVF?

In its simplest terms, in vitro fertilization, or IVF, is the surgical implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus. It is one of the most common forms of surgical infertility treatment.

Before the fertilization process can take place the woman is usually required to take fertility drugs to induce ovulation. The eggs cultivated from this procedure are then harvested in a lab and are eventually united with a male sperm. Once the egg has been fertilized it is transferred into the woman’s uterus through the cervix and the normal stages of pregnancy should begin.

How is it Done?

The IVF procedure involves these five steps:

  • Ovulation Induction: During this period, hormone medications are given to encourage the growth of certain follicles responsible for fertilization and to help control the timing of ovulation so that the eggs can be retrieved before being spontaneously released during the menstrual cycle.
  • Monitoring: Through vaginal ultrasounds and hormonal testing, your doctor will assess the development of the IVF cycles. In this way he can measure the development of follicles and get a clearer idea of when ovulation might occur.
  • Egg Retrieval: During this stage of the procedure an ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina to collect the mature eggs.
  • In Vitro Fertilization: Before the mature eggs are collected, the semen is prepared for artificial insemination. The eggs are then incubated for about 2 days to allow for fertilization.
  • Embryo Transfer: If the eggs are successfully fertilized they will be transferred into the uterus via the cervix, using a catheter, usually about 3 days after egg retrieval.

Will I Get Pregnant?

The biggest question on the minds of couples undergoing IVF treatment is whether or not it will increase fertility. Unfortunately, most couples who use IVF are not successful on their first try. On average, a couple will require about 3 attempts before getting pregnant. It all depends what caused the infertility to occur in the first place.

There are couples for whom IVF is the only realistic option for becoming pregnant. Some reasons why a couple might choose IVF are:

  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, which can prevent fertilization or block an embryo from traveling through the uterus
  • Severe endometriosis
  • Ovarian problems preventing the release or production of eggs
  • Male factor, including low sperm count or difficulty with sperm function
  • Abnormal uterus shape, fibroids or exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)
  • Unexplained infertility
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