In-vitro-Fertilization (IVF) is a common infertility treatment. During the procedure, a fertility doctor takes the eggs from the ovaries using a small needle and fertilizes them with sperm in a specialized lab. After fertilization happens, the eggs develop into embryos. Three to five days later, the specialist re-implants the embryos back into the uterus.
IVF is never the first step in the treatment of infertility except in cases of complete tubal blockage. Instead, it's reserved for cases in which other methods such as fertility drugs, surgery, and artificial insemination haven't worked.
All of the steps during ovulation and fertilization need to happen correctly in order to get pregnant. Sometimes the issues that cause infertility in couples are present at birth, and sometimes they develop later in life.
Causes of male infertility
- Abnormal sperm production or function.
- Problems with the delivery of sperm.
- Overexposure to certain environmental factors
- Damage related to cancer and its treatment
Causes of female infertility
- Ovulation disorders.
- Uterine or cervical abnormalities.
- Fallopian tube damage or blockage
- Primary ovarian insufficiency
- Pelvic adhesions
In-vitro fertilization is ideal for women who have not been able to become pregnant through regular unprotected intercourse or after 12 cycles of artificial insemination.
IVF can be an option if:
- either partner has received a diagnosis of unexplained infertility.
- other techniques, such as the use of fertility drugs or intrauterine insemination (IUI), have not worked.
- the woman's fallopian tubes are blocked.
Techniques may differ depending on the clinic, but IVF usually involves the following steps:
- Suppressing the natural menstrual cycle - The woman receives a drug, usually in the form of a daily injection for about 2 weeks, to suppress their natural menstrual cycle.
- Super ovulation - Fertility drugs containing the fertility hormone follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) are given to the woman. FSH makes the ovaries produce more eggs than usual. Vaginal ultrasound scans can monitor the process in the ovaries.
- Retrieving the eggs - The eggs are collected through a minor surgical procedure known as "follicular aspiration." A very thin needle is inserted through the vagina and into an ovary. The needle is which is connected to a suction device. This sucks the eggs out. This process is repeated for each ovary.
- Insemination and fertilization - The eggs that have been collected are placed together with male sperm and kept in an environmentally controlled chamber. After a few hours, the sperm should enter the egg. Sometimes the sperm is directly injected into the egg. This is known as an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
- Embryo transfer - The transfer of the embryo is done using a thin tube, or catheter. It enters the womb through the vagina. When the embryo sticks to the lining of the womb, healthy embryo growth can begin.
- The final blood test - Two weeks after your embryo transfer, you’ll have a blood test to measure your levels of the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). hCG in your bloodstream usually means a positive pregnancy test.