What is IVF treatment?
IVF stands for in vitro fertilization. It is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) commonly used for treating infertility. IVF involves retrieving eggs from a woman’s ovaries and fertilizing them with a man’s sperm in a laboratory. The resulting embryos are then implanted in the woman’s uterus.
IVF can be used to treat a wide variety of fertility problems. It may be an option if you have blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, a history of pelvic infections, male infertility or unexplained infertility.
IVF success rates depend on a number of factors, such as the reason for infertility, your age and the reproductive history of your partner. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the overall chance of a live birth using IVF is 40 percent for women under 35. This drops to 27 percent for women between the ages of 40 to 42.
During IVF, mature eggs are retrieved from your ovaries and fertilized with your partner’s sperm in a lab. Then the fertilized egg (embryo) or eggs are implanted in your uterus.
IVF can be done using your own eggs and your partner’s sperm. Or IVF may be done with eggs, sperm or embryos from a known or anonymous donor. Sometimes, a gestational carrier — a woman who has no genetic ties to the child — might carry the pregnancy.
Medications used during IVF
IVF involves taking medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. You will be closely monitored to check the development of your eggs and to minimize the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
Once the eggs are mature, they are retrieved from the ovaries in a minor surgical procedure. The eggs are then mixed with sperm in the lab, where one or more eggs may be fertilized.
After 3 to 5 days, healthy embryos are implanted in the uterus. Medication is usually given to increase the chance of pregnancy.
Risks of IVF
Complications from IVF are rare, but they can occur. These might include:
- Multiple births
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Birth defects
- Premature delivery
- Ovarian tumors
Talk to your doctor about the risks before starting IVF.
Preparing for your appointment
You’ll likely start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. He or she may refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist — a doctor who specializes in fertility problems.