Getting Pregnant using Assisted Reproductive Technology(ART): In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the most common form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) used by couples to treat infertility. In fact, in vitro fertilisation accounts for over 99% of all assisted reproduction procedures and is a type of infertility treatment that can treat either male infertility or female infertility. But what exactly does in vitro involve and what should couples know about IVF before choosing this type of this infertility treatment?


What is In Vitro Fertilisation?

In vitro fertilisation is an assisted reproduction procedure in which the egg and sperm are united in the lab (in vitro).

First, ovulation induction is performed in order to stimulate the production of several follicles and as a result, several eggs. This procedure is stimulated by administering hormonal medications, such as hMG, FSH or clomiphene.

Next, a woman’s hormone levels are checked using a blood test to analyse the production of eggs. Sometimes an ultrasound is performed, as this allows the doctor to check for the development of egg follicles.

The eggs are harvested once they are mature, but before they are ready for release. Timing is very important for this part of the IVF procedure, as harvesting the eggs too soon means that they will be too immature to be fertilised, while waiting too long will result in the eggs being too mature for harvesting and they may also be spontaneously released by the body.

The next step for the in vitro fertilisation process is the retrieval of the eggs. An ultrasound is used in order to locate mature follicles and a long thin needle is passed through the vagina to the ovaries, drawing in fluid from the mature follicles. An immediate observation is performed in order to determine whether eggs have been retrieved; several eggs are retrieved in this manner and then placed in an incubator.

Once the eggs are harvested, the woman is given a progesterone supplement in order to make the uterine lining ideal for implantation.

The next part of IVF treatment is the collection of sperm, either from the male partner or through a sperm donor. The sperm is then placed in a Petrie dish with the collected eggs and placed in an incubator, so as to mimic the temperature of a woman’s body. The sperm and eggs are left to mix for a period of 14 to 18 hours. A microscope is used to observe whether or not fertilisation has occurred.

When fertilisation has occurred, the embryos are transferred into the woman’s body 2 to 5 days after fertilisation has taken place using a tube that releases the embryos into the uterus for implantation.

Two weeks after the embryos are transferred, your doctor will perform a blood test in order to check for pregnancy.

The number of embryos varies according to the clinic and to the couple, however, on average, 2 to 4 embryos are transferred.

The entire in vitro procedure takes four to six weeks.


Is In Vitro Fertilisation for You?

IVF can be used to treat both male infertility and female infertility. It is particularly beneficial if one or more of the following is the cause of infertility:

  • the female partner has ovarian issues that affect the release and production of eggs
  • the female partner has tubal problems, such as blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
  • if the female partner suffers from severe endometriosis
  • if the female partner has fibroid tumors or an abnormal uterus shape
  • if the male partner has a low sperm count, low sperm motility or if he has irregular sperm function


IVF Success Rates

The rate of success associated with IVF varies according to a woman’s age. If a woman is in her twenties, the success rate could be as high as 50%. However, if she is in her forties, she has around a 20% chance of successfully getting pregnant.

On average, approximately 35% of women get pregnant using IVF, while 29% of women have a live birth after undergoing in vitro fertilisation.


The Cost of IVF

The cost of in vitro fertilisation is on average approximately £3 000 per cycle.

If IVF is not covered by you or your partner’s health insurance, you will be required to pay the entire cost up front.

While some couples get pregnant after one IVF cycle, it normally takes 3 cycles of IVF treatment to get pregnant.

Before starting this type of infertility treatment, you should decide with your partner how much you are willing and able to spend on in vitro fertilisation and how many cycles you want to undergo, as well as alternative fertility options in the event that IVF is not successful for you.


The Pros of IVF

Because it has been around for a long time (the first IVF procedure was performed in 1978), it is considered a safe, relatively reliable procedure.

In addition, IVF has not been linked to any medical problems and recent studies have shown that it does not put women at an increased risk for ovarian cancer due to the hormonal drugs used in the process, as was previously thought.


The Cons of IVF

One of the major drawbacks of IVF is that it is an expensive infertility treatment procedure.

Also, because this assisted reproduction technology uses more than one embryo, there is a 30% chance of having twins or even multiple births associated with in vitro. Multiple births are in turn associated with a greater risk of low birth weight and birth defects.

Like other ART procedures, IVF also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

For success with fertility treatments find out more about FertilAid for Men and FertilAid for Women.

Visit our forum to chat with others undergoing IVF treatments.


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