In vitro fertilization or IVF has become an increasingly common procedure for people who are dealing with infertility. IVF success rates vary but have generally gotten better over the years.
The following are some things to know about IVF and how the process works in a general sense.
With in vitro fertilization, a woman’s egg is joined with a man’s sperm in a laboratory setting. In vitro is a term referring to outside the body. Fertilization is a reference to the attachment of the sperm and the egg.
In a traditional environment, an egg and sperm are fertilized inside the body. The fertilized egg would in this scenario, attach to the lining of the womb. Then it would grow and a baby would be born around nine months later.
This is sometimes called unassisted or natural conception.
IVF falls into the category of assisted reproductive technology, meaning medical techniques are used to help facilitate pregnancy.
Some of the factors that play a role in whether or not you have a healthy baby using the IVF process include your age and your underlying cause of infertility.
Reasons for IVF
IVF is primarily an infertility treatment or sometimes a treatment for genetic problems. If you’re considering IVF because of infertility, then you may have previously tried other less invasive treatments first, such as fertility drugs.
Sometimes, for women who are older than 40 and dealing with infertility, IVF is a primary treatment option.
It can also be a primary treatment if you have certain conditions, including:
- Ovulation disorders
- Fallopian tube blockage or damage
- Uterine fibroids
- Tubal sterilization or removal
- Impaired function or production of sperm
- Unexplained infertility
- The risk of passing a genetic disorder to a child is present in you or your parent
- Fertility preservation if you have some health conditions
What Happens During IVF?
There are quite a few steps to the IVF process.
You begin with ovulation induction if you’re using your own eggs. During ovulation induction, you’re given hormones to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Typically, just one egg would develop every month. You need multiple eggs because some won’t fertilize or grow normally.
It can take a couple of weeks of ovarian stimulation before your eggs can be retrieved.
During egg retrieval, which you do under sedation, transvaginal aspiration is used. Your eggs are retrieved from your follicles.
The doctor removes them with a needle, and multiple eggs can be removed in just a few minutes.
If you’re using your partner’s sperm, he’s included in the next step of the process. He provides a semen sample the morning of the retrieval. Donor sperm can also be used.
From there is fertilization.
Sometimes, before embryo transfer can be done, something like assisted hatching may have to occur.
The next step is embryo transfer, and you can do it at your doctor’s office.
During this step, usually anywhere from two to five days after egg retrieval, your doctor will use a syringe with embryos, placing them into your uterus.
Once you go through your embryo transfer, you can return to your normal activities, but you might have some symptoms and discomfort.
Anywhere from 12 days to two weeks after your egg retrieval, your doctor will do a blood test to determine if you’re pregnant.
Factors Impacting the Likelihood of Giving Birth
With IVF, as was touched on, certain factors play a role in the likelihood of giving birth to a healthy baby.
- Age: Maternal age is a factor playing a role in IVF success rates. The younger you are, typically, the more likely you’ll get pregnant and give birth using your eggs during the process. If you’re 41 and older, you might be counseled to consider using donor eggs which can raise the chances of success.
- Status of the embryo: When embryos are more developed when they’re transferred, it’s often linked to higher pregnancy rates, but not all embryos survive development.
- History of pregnancy: If you’ve already given birth, you’re more likely to get pregnant using IVF than a woman who hasn’t. If you’ve used IVF multiple times without getting pregnant, your success is less likely.
- Reasons for infertility: If you have a normal egg supply, it raises the chances of IVF pregnancy.
Finally, lifestyle factors can play a role. For example, if you’re a smoker, fewer eggs might be retrieved during IVF and the chance of miscarriage can be higher. Using alcohol, some medicines, recreational drugs, and obesity are all considered adverse risk factors.