In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a method of assisted reproduction that
involves combining an egg with sperm in a laboratory dish. If the egg
fertilizes and begins cell division, the resulting embryo is transferred
into the woman’s uterus where it will hopefully implant in the uterine
lining and further develop. IVF bypasses the fallopian tubes and is
usually the treatment choice for women who have badly damaged or absent
Most infertility cases, 85 to 90 percent, are treated with conventional therapies, such as drug treatment or surgical repair of reproductive organs.
(Source, ASRM, 2017)
There are typically four to five steps in the IVF process, once the parties involved have been approved as candidates for the procedure.
Step 1: Ovulation Induction
Your doctor will monitor your ovaries leading up to and during the IVF process to ensure that you will release eggs to be fertilized at a particular time. Most of the time medication or hormones are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce one or more eggs.
Step 2: Egg Retrieval
Under light pain medication, your doctor will insert a very thin needle through the upper vaginal wall and remove fluid, which contains eggs, from the follicles of the ovaries. After retrieving of the follicle(s), the egg is placed in a dish and transferred to an incubator.
Step 3: Fertilization
A sperm sample is secured, either from your partner or a donor, and analyzed and added to the egg(s) retrieved. Sometimes your doctor may choose to inject the sperm directly into the egg to optimize success. The doctor and embryologist then monitor the fertilization process to make sure a healthy embryo is developed.
Step 4: Embryo Transfer
Once your doctor and embryologist determine that the embryo(s) is ready for transfer you will go back for “transfer day”. This is a day full of excitement mixed with anxiety because while you’ve reached the final step of the IVF process, there are still many unknowns. The doctor will place a speculum into your vagina and transfer the embryo(s) through a small plastic tube placed through the cervix into the uterine cavity.
Success of IVF
IVF success is dependent on a number of factors, some of are out of your control, and many of which are specific to your fertility journey.
Some of these factors include your age, the reasons for infertility,
whether or not donor eggs (or sperm) will be used, and the competency of
the IVF clinic or lab.