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In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
What is in vitro fertilization?
For couples who want to become parents, the inability to conceive can be devastating. One option for couples having trouble getting pregnant is in vitro fertilization (IVF). In vitro fertilization is the process of combining the woman’s eggs with the man’s sperm outside of the body and then placing them back into the woman’s uterus for pregnancy.
There are many reasons that a couple may face infertility, including low sperm count, endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes and advanced maternal age. In vitro fertilization makes it possible to overcome fertility obstacles and become parents.
The in vitro fertilization process
There are several steps to successful in vitro fertilization. They are:
- Egg stimulation – The woman is given hormones to help stimulate the production of multiple eggs. More eggs means a better chance of becoming pregnant. If the woman can’t produce any healthy eggs, donated eggs may be used.
- Egg retrieval – Once the eggs are ready, they are collected from the ovarian follicles using a minimally invasive procedure. The eggs are stored in an incubator until it’s time for in vitro fertilization. In some cases, egg freezing may be used to save the eggs for future in vitro fertilization.
- Fertilization – The eggs (usually 10 to 15 total) are combined in a petri dish with sperm from the man. If the man is unable to produce sperm, donated sperm may be used. If there is concern about the quality of the sperm, intracytoplasmic sperm injection can be used to inject the one sperm directly into one egg.
- Embryo transfer – Once the fertilized egg has divided enough to officially be called an embryo (usually in about three to five days), it can be transferred back into the woman’s uterus for pregnancy. This is a simple, non-invasive procedure where the embryos are placed in the uterus through the vagina.
Once the embryo or embryos are in place, your doctor will do blood tests to be sure that the pregnancy is in progress. Later, you will have ultrasounds to check on the progress of the pregnancy. With successful in vitro fertilization, you will have a baby in about nine months!