In Vitro is a Latin phrase that means in-glass. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) therefore means in-glass fertilization. It is an artificial treatment that involves the fertilization of a human egg by a sperm that occurs outside the normal environment of fertilization (which is the fallopian tube). IVF is not the natural step for couples who are fertile to take. Indeed, IVF is an assisted reproductive technology, particularly for infertile couples. That is couples that cannot conceive a pregnancy naturally.
The combination of a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm in the laboratory is done on a petri-dish and nurtured until it becomes an embryo.
Problems that necessitate an IVF treatment
Not every couple needs this assisted reproductive technology to conceive. IVF is necessary for couples who have one or more of the following challenges.
- Blocked fallopian tubes: The fallopian tubes are essential sites for fertilization to occur. If a woman has any tubal problem, then IVF would be a good technique to help the couple conceive.
- Sperm conditions: A man can also be the reason for infertility in couples. Men with low sperm count and mobility usually need IVF techniques to enable their partners to conceive.
- Ovulation disorders: Women that have uterine fibroids, ovulation disorders, and failures need IVF treatments to get pregnant.
- Genetic disorders: A few genes can cause infertility in both partners. In such situations, IVF treatments can also be used.
- Unexplained infertility: This is a condition where a physician or doctor is unable to come up with a diagnosis of the problem causing infertility in the couple.
Steps involved in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
The process involved in the assisted fertilization of human sperm and egg can be divided into four steps.
- Ovulation induction: The first step is the stimulation of the ovaries, otherwise called ovulation induction. A doctor will first watch the ovaries up until the time when the IVF treatment is to begin. To induce the maturity of the eggs in the ovaries, the doctor or physician administers multiple injections of hormones called gonadotropins.
These hormones are put in the sub-cutaneous layer with tiny needles so that the woman can administer herself. This process occurs for about 10 to 40 days. The physician or doctor would also monitor the ovaries at this period. He or she does this to ensure that the woman’s body is responding to the hormones, and eggs are being released.
When the physician or doctor is satisfied with the progress of the hormones in inducing ovulation, a ‘trigger shot’ is then administered. This injection allows the final maturation of the egg and prepares it for the next phase.
2. Retrieval of the eggs: This next phase occurs about 36 hours after the egg has matured. It involves the careful removal of the egg(s) from the ovaries. The process is done under light and general anesthesia, so the patient is not fully conscious during this step.
A thin needle is inserted through the vaginal wall to remove the eggs. The eggs from the ovaries are usually contained in a fluid and gotten from the ovary’s follicle. Ultrasound is used to guide the needle to the follicle of the ovaries. Immediately the eggs are retrieved, they are sorted, counted, and then placed in Petri-dishes.
- Fertilization of the sperm and egg: For fertilization to occur, a sperm sample must be collected from a donor (or partner). This sample is then added to the eggs that were retrieved from the woman. To optimize the success of fertilization, the sperm may be injected directly to the eggs. The embryologist then counts and checks the number of eggs that are fertilized through this process. He or she also monitors the process to make sure that only healthy embryos are developed.
- Transfer of Embryo: This is the stage where the embryo (or embryos) is placed in the woman’s uterus. Again, the transfer is done using ultrasound to ensure the safe and accurate placement of the embryo. Not all the embryos that are fertilized would be placed in the woman’s uterus. The others are frozen (preserved) to be used in the future.
How to choose the right IVF treatment for you
There are many IVF treatments that you can use to conceive a pregnancy. Some of the options available include;
- Natural IVF: This is a low-cost IVF treatment option. This procedure is recommended for women that do not respond quickly to egg-stimulating drugs. The risks and side effects are lower in this option than every other IVF treatment.
- Discounted programs: This affordable IVF treatment procedure is for people who do not have medical insurance that covers fertility medications. These are procedures offered by large companies that charge a little cost for the IVF treatments.
What are the chances of getting pregnant with IVF?
The success of IVF treatment is impressive. However, it is subjected to some conditions like the age of the woman, the response of the ovaries, health of the sperm, among other conditions. The chance of getting pregnant after three cycles are 45 to 52%.
IVF treatment is a simple procedure. It rarely causes defects to the embryo. IVF is a low-risk treatment and the chances of getting ectopic pregnancies are reduced. The cost of this treatment is low and it is widely considered the best choice for infertile couples.