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In Vitro Fertilization - IVF

In vitro fertilization is the process of manually joining together an egg and a sperm in a laboratory dish to result in a fertilized egg, embryo and eventually a baby. In vitro fertilization is most often used in cases where the man or the woman has difficulties conceiving naturally.

Normally a natural conception consists of a male's sperm joining with a female's egg during the act of intercourse to stimulate fertilization. The fertilized egg is then sent through the fallopian tubes to the uterus where an embryo continues to grow in gestation for about 40 weeks to produce a baby. Unfortunately some women with certain fertility issues might have trouble with this process of natural conception due to an infertile cervical fluid environment, or the man's sperm count might be low and might have a difficult time making it to the egg. That is why scientists and researchers have turned to the science of in vitro fertilization. 

How In Vitro Fertilization Works:

There are several steps included in the in vitro fertilization process. In order to make a successful joining of the egg and sperm, the IVF process must be done correctly to ensure a developing embryo and full-term pregnancy. In step one of the IVF process, a series of fertility medications might be prescribed to start. The women that have a difficult time with ovulation will be medically induced to begin ovulating to help release the egg during ovulation. Sometimes it is best when the woman is able to produce multiple eggs over several cycles because some eggs will not result in fertilization. Each egg is monitored with an ultrasound to make sure the ovaries are producing. The hormone levels are also checked during this process. 

In the next step your eggs are retrieved through a minor surgery. The eggs are removed from the ovaries using a hollow needle through follicular aspiration. This is a minor surgery but painkillers, sedation and local anesthesia are provided to help with the discomfort experienced during the process. Next sperm (obtained through ejaculation) is collected from the male to be prepared for the manual combination of sperm and eggs. 

The insemination process is next and involves the sperm and eggs being placed in incubators in the lab, which makes it so the fertilization process will begin. This process is monitored to ensure the egg and the sperm are indeed successfully combining and fertilizing. Once the egg is fertilized, it becomes an embryo. This next step is where the embryo will be transferred into the woman's uterus. This takes place about one to six days later. The transfer process involves inserting the speculum into the vagina to an exposed cervix. This is where the embryo will make its home and eventually develop as a growing fetus to be delivered as a full-term baby approximately 40 weeks later. 

IVF Success Rate:

There are several factors that contribute to the success rate of in vitro fertilization. One of these factors relates to the age of the mother. The older the woman is, the lower the success rate. There are some clinics that have a higher success rate compared to others as well. It all depends on the location and how long the clinic has been in business. It is still important to realize that even IVF can result in a miscarriage. However, the pregnancy is monitored very closely to ensure to pregnancy continues successfully. 

IVF Risks:

IVF can be done with the couple's own eggs and sperm and also can be done with donor sperm or eggs. If there is something wrong with the sperm or a woman's eggs, donor materials are often used in this kind of situation. This occurs in about 10 percent of IVF cases. There are some risks with IVF to the mother including severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, decreased urinary frequency, shortness of breath, 10-lb weight gain in a short amount of time (3-5 days). These symptoms occur in about one percent of IVF cases if the IVF results in hyper stimulation. IVF carries a high risk of producing multiples during the process, which can result in twins or even higher numbers of multiples. There is also sometimes a higher risk of premature delivery in cases of multiples. Sometimes the egg retrieval process done during IVF can carry risks and might damage the internal organs like the bowels, bladder or a blood vessel, but these cases are extremely rare. 

It is also important to know that IVF can be extremely costly, and is rarely covered by insurance companies. However, some people are unable to conceive otherwise and the process is worth the cost. 


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