Today, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is practically a household word. But not so long ago, it was a mysterious procedure for infertility related couples that produced what were then known as "test-tube babies." Louise Brown, born in England in 1978, was the first such baby to be conceived outside her mother's womb.
Unlike the simpler process of artificial insemination -- in which sperm is placed in the uterus and conception happens otherwise normally -- IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus. IVF is a complex and expensive procedure; only about 15% -25% of couples with infertility seek it out. However, since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.
What Causes of Infertility Can IVF Treat?
When it comes to infertility, IVF may be an option if you or your partner have been diagnosed with
Problems with the uterus or fallopian tubes
Problems with ovulation
Antibody problems that harm sperm or eggs
The inability of sperm to penetrate or survive in the cervical mucus
An unexplained fertility problem
Ejaculatory or Erectile Disorders
Low sperm counts
IVF is never the first step in the treatment of infertility. Instead, it's reserved for cases in which other methods such as fertility drugs , surgery, and artificial insemination haven't worked.
What Can I Expect From IVF?
The first step in IVF involves injecting hormones so you produce multiple eggs instead of only one.You will then be tested to determine whether you're ready for egg retrieval.
Prior to the retrieval procedure, you will be given injections that ripens the developing eggs and starts the process of ovulation Your doctor may do blood tests or an ultrasound at the right stage of development before retrieving them. The IVF expert will provide you with special instructions to follow the night before and the day of the procedure. Women undergoing the procedure are given pain medication or the choice of being mildly sedated or going under full anesthesia.
During the procedure, your doctor will locate follicles in the ovary with ultrasound and remove the eggs with a hollow needle. The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes, but may take up to an hour.
Immediately following the retrieval, your eggs will be fertilized in the laboratory with your partner's sperm, which he will have donated on the same day.
While you and your partner go home, the fertilized eggs are kept in the clinic under observation of an embryologist to ensure optimal growth. Depending on the clinic, you may even wait up to five days until the embryo reaches a more advanced blastocyst stage.
Once the embryos are ready, you will return to the IVF facility so doctors can transfer one or more into your uterus. This procedure is quicker and easier than the retrieval of the egg. The doctor will insert a flexible tube called a catheter through your vagina and cervix and into your uterus, where the embryos will be deposited under ultrasound guidance. To increase the chances of pregnancy, most IVF experts recommend transferring up to three embryos at a time. However, this means you could have a multiple pregnancy, which can increase the health risks for both you and the babies.
Following the procedure, you would typically stay in bed for few hours and then be discharged. Your doctor will probably perform a pregnancy test called a serum beta hcg on you about two weeks after the embryo transfer.
In cases where the man's sperm count is extremely low or morphology and motility is affected, doctors may combine IVF with a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection. In this procedure, a sperm is taken from semen -- or in some cases right from the testicles -- and inserted directly into the egg. Once a viable embryo is produced, it is transferred to the uterus using the usual IVF procedure.
What Are the Success Rates for IVF?
Success rates for IVF depend on a number of factors, including the reason for infertility, the facility/lab where you're having the procedure done, and the most important factor is your age , your hormonal profile etc.
Are There Other Issues With IVF to Consider?
Any embryos that you do not use in your first IVF attempt can be frozen for later use. This will save you money if you undergo IVF a second or third time with a frozen embryo also called as a frozen embryo transfer. If you do not want to use your leftover embryos, you may donate them to another infertile couple, or you and your partner can ask the clinic to destroy the embryos. Both you and your partner must agree before the clinic will destroy or donate your embryos.
A woman's age is a major factor in the success of IVF for any couple. For instance, a woman who is under age 35 and undergoes IVF has a 39.6% chance of having a successful outcome while a woman over age 40 has an 11.5% chance of getting a similar success rate.
What Are The Costs of IVF
This price will vary depending on where you live, ( Country or State ) the amount of medications you're required to take depending on your medical indication for IVF , the procedure of Assisted Reproductive Technology involved and last but not the least the number of IVF cycles you have to undertake before a successful outcome.