In Vitro Fertilization 101: Understanding the process

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a medical process that involves manually removing a woman’s egg from her ovaries and combines them with the sperm of her partner, or an anonymous sperm donor, into a laboratory dish. Upon successful fertilization, a living embryo is produced and inserted back into the woman’s uterus, through the cervix, and ultimately, the natural development of pregnancy ensues.

Thanks to immense improvements in contemporary science and medicine, IVF success rates have dramatically enriched the lives of couples suffering from infertility. Environmental, biological and physiological tribulations may initiate infertility in both men and women, as approximately 15 percent or eight million Americans endure this genetic condition.

In Vitro Fertilization 101

Today, IVF is one of the most popular and widely utilized Assisted Reproductive Technologies in medicine—thanks to high success results in helping women to end their conception difficulties.

The three-step process of IVF includes: Removal of eggs from the ovary, fertilization with sperm, and insertion of embryo into uterus. Here is an in-depth overview of the IVF process:

  • Ovarian stimulation – Synthetic hormones are injected into the ovaries to promote stimulation and production of eggs. In order for increase the success of IVF, multiple eggs are needed during the time of retrieval.
  • Egg retrieval – This process requires sedation as an ultrasound probe, which is used to identify follicles around the vagina.
    1. A thin needle is inserted into the probe to go through the vagina and into follicles for egg retrieval.
    2. The liquid, which surrounds the eggs are sucked out, a procedure known as “aspiration”.
    3. The eggs and fluid are removed and isolated separately and incubated individually, as the fluid is placed in a laboratory dish while special nutrients that support fertilization are absorbed.
  • Sperm retrieval – A simpler process, sperm retrieval mandates a semen sample via masturbation and incubated into IVF laboratory.
  • Fertilization – Fertilization can be achieved via two methods
  • Insemination-The incubated eggs and sperm are then combined into an individual dish.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – In the case of male infertility, the sperm is too weak to penetrate the egg. Although not as efficient as insemination, ICSI involves each egg to be injected with one sperm; additionally, this method is just as if not more effective than insemination.

Embryo Insertion

After approximately one week after egg and sperm retrieval, the successful formation of an embryo is then ready to be inserted into the women’s vagina. The embryo transfer is the most important and complex part of successful IVF. Even the slightest misplacement of the inserted embryo, no matter is the existing embryo had developed perfectly, can produce an unsuccessful procedure.

  • Before your doctor begins the procedure, you may be given a sedative; however, the procedure itself is mostly painless.
  • The doctor will use a catheter, or long, flexible, thin tube and insert it through the vagina, cervix and finally into the uterus.
  • At the end of the catheter, a syringe is used to release the embryo(s) (in liquid form) to reach the entry point of the tube, and finally, is delivered into the uterus.

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