In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a fertility enhancement procedure during which healthy eggs and sperm are fertilized in a laboratory before being placed in the woman’s uterus for continuous growth and development. While the popularity of the procedure has skyrocketed globally in the last two decades, the high level of expenses that come with IVF means less than five percent of couples with fertility issues opt for it.
Initially known as test tube babies, the first account of a successful birth from the procedure was recorded in the UK in 1978. The procedure was introduced in the United States in the early 1980s and has gained wide acceptance across North America ever since.
Infertility Conditions under Which IVF May be Prescribed
- Fallopian tube rapture
- Ovulation disorders
- Uterine problems
- Low sperm counts
- Immune system disorders which accidentally kill sperms or eggs
- Inability of sperm to swim through cervical mucus to reach eggs, after ejaculation in the vagina
- Unknown medical issues
Factors to Consider Before IVF
Before you decide to sign up for IVF, it is important to go through other methods of fertility treatment ranging from surgery to fertility drugs. Most doctors will only advice you to pay for this procedure after Artificial Insemination has failed. In fact, IVF is used in most cases only as a last resort.
Once you are sure that getting in vitro fertilization is the best fertility option for you, it is important to conduct the necessary research to find a world-class medical facility with highly experienced fertility doctors and equipment. This can increase your chances of success significantly.
A few questions you should seek answers to once you find a fertility center includes costs of treatment, success rates of pregnancy for women in your age group and how long your eggs will be stored once frozen.
Looking Forward to IVF
Couples seeking IVF will have to undergo various medical procedures to increase their chances of success. Firstly, the woman will receive injections to boost hormone production, leading to the release of multiple eggs during ovulation. Various tests will be conducted to find out if the eggs are healthy enough to be transferred from your body.
Before the egg transfer procedure, fertility medications are usually injected into the woman’s body to quicken the maturing of the eggs and begin the ovulation process. Correct timing is everything during this stage, as the eggs are required to be transferred as soon as they are ready from the follicles to the ovaries.
Early or late retrieval of the eggs can result in abnormal development, thereby making them useless for IVF. Various tests are conducted by medical officers prior to the retrieval of the eggs to ensure proper development afterwards.
Once this has been confirmed, the woman will be given a list of conditions to follow in the 24 hours preceding the egg retrieval process. The procedure is quite painful and doctors may prescribe local anesthesia or strong pain killers to minimize the woman’s level of discomfort.
The Egg Retrieval Procedure
This is one of the most important processes in the IVF procedure and involves the fertility specialist using a hollow needle to retrieve eggs from the woman’s body, under guidance from an ultrasound.
Your partner’s sperm will be retrieved hours prior to the egg removal procedure so that the process of artificial fertilization can immediately begin. The treatment center will store and monitor the eggs while the couple returns home. Rapid development of the embryo occurs in the initial days after fertilization and the fertility hospital will keep watch over the fertilized eggs for 3-5 days as the embryo quickly grows.
You will have to go back to the fertility facility after the defined time period for the eggs to be placed in your uterus. Depending on your preferences, one or more of the eggs will be transmitted.
The Egg Placement Process
The process of transferring the developed embryo into the woman’s uterus is quite quick and pain-free. A catheter will be used to reach your uterus via the vagina and cervix before the embryos can be placed in the uterus. While success in IVF is far from guaranteed, research has shown that simultaneous placement of three or four embryos increases success rates significantly. The downside is that, more than one of the embryos may develop fully into a healthy fetus, leading to multiple pregnancies and their associated health risks.
Typically, a woman is required to lie in bed for about five hours before being given the green light to go home. Approximately two weeks after embryo placement, your doctor will test your blood for pregnancy hormones, which will be an indicator of the success of your IVF.
In Vitro Fertilization and Low Sperm Count
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is a procedure in which sperm is directly retrieved from semen or even the testicles for fertilization. For couples unable to achieve natural conception as a result of low sperm count, IVF may be done simultaneously with this procedure to increase the chances of successful fertilization. Once the egg is fertilized, the resultant embryo is transferred to the uterus.
IVF Success Rates
IVF success is far from guaranteed and depends on various factors such as the woman’s age, skill level and experience of the fertility specialist as well as the underlying condition for the fertility problems.
- The average rate of success hovers around 30 percent, although it can rise or fall significantly depending on the age of the woman.
- The average percentage of successful births is approximately 23 percent.
Freezing Your Embryos
Leftover embryos from an IVF procedure can be frozen in case you decide to undergo a second or third one. Another option is to donate your embryos to another couple trying for a baby or even get them discarded by the fertility center. Any decisions as to what to do with your embryos will have to be jointly made with your partner.
Effects of Age on Success
The age of a woman is one of the most important determinants of IVF success. While women under 35 have a success rate of approximately 40 percent, the figure declines sharply to less than 12 percent for those over 40. With advancements in technology, IVF success rates are generally rising significantly.
IVF comes with huge costs, often determined by the treatment center you choose and your unique circumstances. Research indicates the average cost in the United States in 2013 is $13,000. Again, every individual’s circumstances are different. Depending on the type of medications required as well as the number of cycles you have to undergo and the type of insurance coverage you have, this figure may rise or fall significantly.
If you have an insurance policy, find out details about how much your current plan will contribute to your IVF. Getting an official statement of the kind of benefits you will receive can come in really handy at this stage. It is important to know that while some American states make it compulsory for medical insurance carriers to cover a portion of infertility treatment expenses, other states are yet to follow that trend.