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What is IVF?

In Vitro Fertilization



What is IVF?

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the womb. The term 'In Vitro', comes from the [Latin] meaning "Within the glass", giving us the familiar term ‘test tube baby’. During the IVF process, eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilised with sperm in glass containers such as test tubes, or petri dishes in the biology laboratory. The fertilised egg (embryo) is later placed in the woman's womb.

The first pregnancy achieved through in vitro human fertilisation of a human oocyte was reported in The Lancet from the Monash team in 1973, although it lasted only a few days. This was followed by a tubal ectopic pregnancy from Steptoe and Edwards in 1976 which resulted in the birth of Louise Brown on 25 July 1978, followed by Alastair MacDonald on 14 January 1979, the world's first and second IVF babies. In Vitro Fertilization is a complex process and while considered an experimental procedure for years, IVF has been a proven way for many couples to build their family.

Louise BrownLouise Brown, the world's first 'test tube baby', was born in England over 30 years ago. Now, the procedure is a common treatment for infertility, and has helped numerous couples create the families they so desire.

At 11:47 p.m. July 25, 1978, Louise Joy Brown was delivered by cesarean section. She weighed five pounds 12 ounces (2.6 kg) and had blonde hair and blue eyes.

Most couples assume that getting pregnant will be easy. For millions of couples, trying to conceive will be much harder than they expect. This is because as many as 1 in 8 couples will experience problems with infertility. Fertility is an issue that involves both men and women.

When couples are having difficulties becoming pregnant, it is generally the female who will seek treatment first. However, the statistics show that men are the infertile partners in 40-50% of couples unable to get pregnant. One won't work without the other and in many cases where couples have difficulties getting pregnant both she and he have some problems.

Age is affecting a large number of couples ability to conceive, a group that's growing as more people delay having children until later in life. Women have a lifetime supply of eggs when they are born and when they're gone, they're gone. In fact, a woman's fertility starts to measurably decline around age 27, due to the depletion and aging of her eggs. For those under 30, it's estimated that the chance of getting pregnant in any one cycle is 20 percent to 30 percent. By the age of 40, it falls to 5 percent, according to the American Fertility Association.

Men over 35 are twice as likely to be infertile as those under 25. Studies also are showing that, as with older women, older men are more likely to have children with birth defects due to the decreased genetic quality of their sperm. Every cell in the body ages.

Tools and articles that may help:  BBT Temperature Chart  |  Ovulation Planner  | 

The benefits of exercise, a proper diet, maintaining good general health are very important. People who are very unhealthy will have a much higher incidence of infertility.

Here you can learn about the many things you can do to increase your chances of pregnancy.



The first steps to IVF

Once you have been trying to conceive for more than a year without success, it may be time to make an appointment with a fertility specialist for an evaluation.

Once the appropriate testing is completed, the fertility specialist will discuss the possible treatments. It is important to remember that any treatments discussed are options to be considered.

Unfortunately, though, not every couple will be able to get pregnant despite the use of any fertility treatments. Some couples decide that the best option is not to undergo infertility treatment but to consider alternatives such as adoption or child free living.

Modern infertility therapy currently allows couples many more options than were possible in the past. One of these options becoming more and more popular in fertility clinics, and may help to increase your chances of pregnancy is IVF.

Thousands of couples every year opt to go through IVF fertility treatment in order to increase their chances of conception. If you and your partner are considering an IVF procedure, then you may want to know the basics of what is involved in IVF procedures.

The following information is designed to answer some of your questions about IVF.


The basics of IVF procedure

The IVF program is made up of four steps:
  • 1) Use of fertility medications to develop oocytes or 'eggs'.
  • 2) Collection of the oocytes (eggs).
  • 3) In Vitro Fertilization of the egg and growth of the embryo.
  • 4) Replacement of the embryo back into the uterus.
More on The basics of IVF procedure...


How successful is in vitro fertilization?

The success rate of IVF clinics depends on a number of factors including patient characteristics and treatment approaches. It is also important to realize that pregnancy rates do not equate to live birth rates. In the United States, the live birth rate for each IVF cycle started is approximately:
  • 30 to 35% for women under age 35
  • 25% for women ages 35 to 37
  • 15 to 20% for women ages 38 to 40
  • 6 to 10% for women ages over 40


Are there any risks with in vitro fertilization?

As with most medical procedures there are some potential risks. The risks of in vitro fertilization depend upon each specific step of the procedure.

You will be taking strong medications to stimulate egg production. While these medications have been proven safe to use, there are some possible side effects

Ovary stimulation carries the risk of hyper stimulation, where the ovaries become swollen and painful. This condition is called Ovarian Hyper stimulation Syndrome, which is usually rare, mild and involves the following potential side affects: nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite or a feeling of being bloated.

More severe symptoms which occur in 1% of cases, include the following side affects: severe abdominal pain, severe nausea, decreased urinary frequency, shortness of breath, weight gain.

Egg retrieval and the use of laparoscopy carries the normal risks related to anesthesia. Additionally, there is a slight risk of bleeding, infection, and damage to the bowel, bladder, or a blood vessel. Less than one patient in 1,000 will require surgery to repair damage during the egg retrieval process.

The chance of a multiples pregnancy is increased in all assisted reproductive procedures. When multiple pre-embryos are transferred around 25% of pregnancies with IVF are twins. (In normal population, the rate is one set of twins per 80 births.) Triplets are seen in approximately 2-3% of pregnancies. There are additional risks and concerns related to multiples during pregnancy such as increased risk of premature delivery.



Are there variations of in vitro fertilization?

Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) and zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) are two procedures related to IVF.

GIFT is similar to IVF, but the gametes (egg and sperm) are transferred to your fallopian tubes rather than your uterus and fertilization takes place in the fallopian tubes rather than in the laboratory. GIFT also involves a laparoscopic surgical procedure to transfer the sperm and egg into the tubes. GIFT accounts for approximately 2% of ART procedures in the United States.

ZIFT differs from GIFT in that the fertilization process still takes place in the laboratory versus the fallopian tubes. It is similar to GIFT in that the fertilized egg is transferred into fallopian tubes rather than the uterus, and it involves a laparoscopic surgical procedure as well. ZIFT accounts for less than 1.5% of ART procedures in the United States.


Male Fertility

Fertility depends on the man's ability to deposit adequate healthy, mature, functioning sperm into the female reproductive tract near the time of ovulation. For most men, a detailed medical history, a complete physical examination and a semen analysis will for the major part of the fertility screening.

Men who feel uncomfortable about the fertility evaluation should discuss these feelings with their partner and physician. Talking about anxiety beforehand can make the actual exam much easier.

More on Male Infertility


IVF Medications

It is necessary to take certain medications during the IVF cycle in order to prepare the body for the treatment. The instructions for each medication vary from patient to patient. Your medical team will analyze your case closely to determine which medications to use, what dosage to take, when to administer the medications and how long to take them.


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