Nowadays, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a household word. It wasn’t long ago that it was a mystery treatment for infertility known as “test-tube babies.” Louise Brown, born in England in 1978, was the first such child.
In a simpler artificial insemination process, doctors insert sperm into the uterus, and conception occurs. But, IVF requires the combination of eggs and sperm in a laboratory outside the body. So after the development of an embryo or embryos, doctors place it in the uterus. Moreover, IVF is a complicated and costly procedure. Hence, only about 5% of couples with infertility are looking for it. Its introduction in the United States was in 1981. Since then, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 children.
Key Facts about IVF or In vitro fertilization
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) can help to achieve pregnancy when other treatments have not succeeded.
- The process involves fertilizing an egg outside the body and implanting the egg.
- IVF conceives one percent of children born in the United States.
- There is a greater risk of multiple births with IVF.
How does IVF work?
Your doctor may recommend various fertility therapies as an alternative for you. If they don’t work, then you can turn to IVF. So IVF may be the only choice for the child to conceive for women who have:
- Serious blockages in the fallopian tubes
- Ovulation problems
- Reduced ovarian reserve
- Poor egg production
- Or endometriosis
Procedure of IVF
Techniques may vary depending on the clinic. But IVF usually includes the following steps:
- Suppressing the natural menstrual cycle
A woman is receiving a drug, usually in the form of a daily injection, for around 2 weeks. It suppresses her natural menstrual cycle.
Fertility drugs containing the fertility hormone FSH are given to women. FSH produces more eggs than usual for the ovaries. Vaginal ultrasound scans may be used to monitor the process in the ovaries.
- Retrieving the eggs
Doctors obtain the eggs by a minor surgical operation known as follicular aspiration. Then they insert a relatively thin needle into the vagina and the ovary. As a result, the needle is connected to the suction system. This sucks the eggs out of here. Doctors repeat this process with each ovary.
In 2011, researchers suggested that doctors should collect 15 eggs from the ovaries in one cycle. It will provide the best chance of successful pregnancy.
- Insemination and fertilization
Doctors shall place the eggs collected along with the male sperm. Then they will preserve in an environmentally controlled room. So within a few hours, the sperm is supposed to enter the egg.
Sometimes the doctors inject the sperm straight into the egg. This is known as an injection of intracytoplasmic sperm (ICSI).
You can also use frozen sperm retrieved by testicular biopsy. Hence, this is known to be as effective as fresh sperm for early pregnancy. As a result, the fertilized egg divides into an embryo.
At this point, some centers provide a pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). It can screen the embryo for genetic disorders. This is a little controversial, and people do not often use it. Doctors will choose one or two of the best embryos for transfer.
Doctors then give the woman progesterone or human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). It will help the womb to receive the embryo.
- Transfer of the embryo
Often doctors place more than one embryo into the womb. It is necessary for the doctor and the couple to discuss how many embryos can be transferred. Normally, a doctor can only transfer more than one embryo if there are no ideal embryos available.
The doctor transfers the embryo using a thin tube or a catheter. It goes through the vagina into the womb. Healthy embryo development may begin when the embryo sticks to the lining of the womb.
Risks of In Vitro Fertilization include:
- Multiple births. IVF raises the likelihood of multiple births if doctors place more than one embryo. Pregnancy with multiple fetuses brings a greater chance of early labor. It also increases the chance of low birth weight than pregnancy with a single fetus.
- Premature delivery and low birth weight. Research shows that IVF slightly raises the chance that the infant will be born early.
- Hyperstimulation of the ovaries. The use of injectable fertility drugs, such as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), to induce ovulation can trigger ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. So in this syndrome, your ovaries become swollen and painful.
Symptoms normally last a week. Also, they include mild abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, if you become pregnant, the symptoms can last for several weeks. So it is rarely possible to develop a more serious type of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Also, it can often cause rapid weight gain and shortness of breath.
- Miscarriage. The rate of miscarriage for women who conceive of fresh embryo IVF is similar to that of women who conceive naturally—about 15% to 25%—but rises with the maternal era.
- Egg-retrieval procedure complications. The use of a suction needle to extract eggs can cause bleeding, infection. It can also cause damage to the intestine, bladder, or blood vessel.
- Ectopic pregnancy. About 2 to 5 percent of women who use IVF would have an ectopic pregnancy. Here the fertilized egg implants are outside the uterus, usually throughout the fallopian tube. The fertilized egg can’t live outside of the uterus, and there’s no way to continue the pregnancy.
- Congenital disabilities. The mother’s age is the main risk factor for developing congenital disabilities. We need more studies to determine whether infants conceived using IVF could be at increased risk of such congenital disabilities.
- Cancer. Some early studies have indicated that there could be a link between certain medications used to promote egg growth and the development of a specific type of ovarian tumor. But, more recent reports do not support these results. However, there does not seem to be a substantially elevated risk of breast, endometrial, cervical, or ovarian cancer after IVF.
- Stress. Usage of IVF can be economically, emotionally, and physically draining. Support from psychologists, family, and friends will help you and your partner.
What Are the Success Rates for IVF?
Success rates for IVF depend on various factors. They include the cause for infertility, where the treatment is performed, and the age. Although IVF is by far the most common, it accounts for 99% of procedures.
The most recent study of 2016 found:
- Pregnancy was achieved by an average of 27.3% of all cycles. It may be higher or lower depending on the woman’s age.
- The percentage of cycles that resulted in live births was 22.2% on average. It may be higher or lower based on the woman’s age.
The Bottom Line
If you have been dealing with infertility for a long time, know about in vitro fertilization. It is an option that will give you plenty of confidence that you will get pregnant and have a baby. The path ahead may not be a short one. But with the right fertility experts by your side, it’s going to be a journey with a happy bundle of cuddly love waiting at the end.