IVF Treatment Overview: When Nature Needs a Nudge
Searching for information on IVF (in vitro fertilization)? You have great company. IVF treatment is the oldest and most widely used assisted reproductive technology (ART).
Still, undergoing IVF treatment is a very emotional experience. You may focus all your hopes and fears about fertility and pregnancy into this one procedure. That’s why learning all you can about in vitro fertilization is important to put your mind at ease—so you can focus on getting pregnant and adding to your family.
IVF treatment - the most widely used ART
In theory, the IVF procedure to help you get pregnant is simple. Yet in practice, IVF treatment demands a high level of expertise and attention to detail, as well as a precise coordinated effort between you, your partner, and the large IVF team.
IVF treatment gives nature a nudge to boost conception. Women who could not get pregnant naturally because of tubal damage or blockage often have successful pregnancies with IVF treatment. At most fertility centers, in vitro fertilization has expanded past tubal infertility to help other problems that make getting pregnant difficult, including:
- Cervical factor
- Male factor
- Unexplained infertility (IVF is used as a diagnostic tool)
What to expect with in vitro fertilization
With IVF treatment, you may be prescribed fertility hormones or drugs. The fertility drugs will stimulate your ovaries to produce one or more eggs, a process called “ovulation induction.”
Then, at the exact time, your doctor will remove one or more eggs (oocytes) from your ovary. The eggs are placed in a culture dish with the prepared sperm in a laboratory to start the fertilization process.
After the eggs are fertilized, the embryos are allowed to grow for 1 to 3 days in the controlled environment. A mixture of genes from both the sperm and egg are in the single cell of the fertilized egg. This single cell divides to form two cells, which form four, then eight and on.
Around day 2 or 3 of your IVF treatment, the best embryo candidates are transferred into your uterus through the cervix. This is called embryo transfer or ET.
Are there risks with IVF treatment?
Overall, experts report few serious complications from IVF medications and procedures. However, as with all medical treatments and procedures, there are some risks involved.
Miscarriage (called pregnancy loss) may still occur with IVF. The miscarriage rate following IVF treatment is generally the same to that in the general population and increases with the mother’s age.
Some recent studies show that in vitro fertilization can largely overcome infertility in younger women. Still, IVF treatment may not reverse the age-related decline in fertility that occurs in women.
Knowledge is power
To feel confident about IVF treatment, talk openly with your reproductive endocrinologist or fertility specialist. Be sure to write down questions you may have about in vitro fertilization. Once you get a better understanding of the steps involved with IVF, you will feel a greater since of control and can continue your family planning—on schedule.
American Society of Reproductive Medicine: Risks of In Vitro Fertilization
WomensHealth.gov: Infertility: Frequently Asked Questions
RESOLVE: Assisted Reproductive Technology
IntegraMed: The IVF Procedure: Learn How IVF Works