In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a medical process where an egg is united with sperms outside the body, in a laboratory dish. Once an embryo or embryos are formed, they are then transferred into the uterus, with the aim of attaining pregnancy. IVF is generally used in the treatment of infertility when other cheaper fertility techniques have failed. IVF is a complex & quite expensive procedure.
Under normal conditions, fertilization of an egg and sperm takes place inside a woman’s body, where the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the womb and continues to grow, leading to the birth of a baby after 9 months. This process is known as natural or unassisted conception. IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART), where special techniques are used to aid a woman to get pregnant. This process can be performed using your own eggs and sperm or using either donated sperm or donated eggs, or both.
What causes of infertility can IVF treat?
IVF can be a treatment option if you or your partner suffers from the following conditions:
1. Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes. It can make it difficult for an egg to be fertilized.
- Ovulation disorders (few eggs are available for fertilization), Premature ovarian failure (loss of normal ovarian function) or uterine fibroids (non – malignant tumors which interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg).
2. Endometriosis (tissue which lines the inside of the uterus, grows outside the uterus).
3. Low sperm count, decreased sperm motility or abnormalities in sperm size and shape.
- Failure of intrauterine insemination (IUI).
- Unexplained infertility where the cause of infertility has not been ascertained.
The process of IVF involves stimulation of a woman’s ovulatory process, extraction of an egg or eggs from the ovaries and then permitting the sperm to fertilize them in a liquid in a laboratory. The fertilized egg (embryo) is cultured for 2 to 6 days and is then transferred into the woman’s uterus.
The five basic steps involved in IVF are…
Step 1: Stimulation, also known as super ovulation;
Step 2: Retrieval of the egg;
Step 3: Insemination and Fertilization;
Step 4: Embryo culture &
Step 5: Embryo transfer.
Some of the risks associated with IVF are as follows:
- Multiple Births.
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome – Excessive use of injectable fertility drugs to induce ovulation can lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
- Birth defects.
- Premature delivery and low birth weight.
- Ectopic pregnancy (fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube).
- Complications of egg-retrieval procedure – The aspirating needle used to collect eggs may cause bleeding, infection or damage to the structures surrounding the ovaries.
Mostly, women can resume normal activities the next day, after the procedure is performed. Some of the side effects of the procedure may include…
- Passage of small quantity of clear or blood-tinged fluid, post procedure;
- Mild cramping;
- Slight bloating &
- Tenderness in the breast.
How successful is In Vitro Fertilization?
The success rate of IVF is dependent on multitude factors, which comprises of:
1. Maternal age – The younger the age of the women whose eggs are been used, higher are the chances of pregnancy.
2. Reproductive history – Success rates are lower in females who have had multiple unsuccessful IVFs. Higher success rates in women who have had been pregnant earlier.
Cause of Infertility
Smoking lowers the success rates of IVF as fewer eggs are retrieved during IVF. Obesity too reduces the chances of getting pregnant. Certain medications, alcohol, excessive caffeine & recreational drugs too can hamper the success rate.