If you’re thinking about fertility treatments, you’ve probably heard of in vitro fertilization. The name comes from the Latin “in vitro” which means “in glass” (impress your friends on your next trivia night!) referring to the petri dish where the eggs and sperm are brought together. Successful IVF in humans began in the 1970s and the popularity and success rates have only increased since then. Even if you understand the basics of what IVF is, you might still be wondering what is IVF like? Well wonder no more - find out what you can expect with IVF below!
History of IVF
The first baby conceived as a result of in vitro fertilization was born in 1978. At the time IVF was considered experimental and potentially unethical by both the medical community and the public, but quickly became mainstream as more and more couples were able to have a baby when it would have been impossible before. Since that time, success rates with IVF have more than doubled, and freezing technology has expanded the timeline from fertilization to implantation almost infinitely. Today, the reasons for choosing IVF have expanded beyond the original uses.
Some of the most common reasons for IVF include:
- inability of the egg to reach the uterus
- inability of the sperm to reach the egg
- an opportunity to test for genetic abnormalities before implantation
When there is damage to or obstruction in the fallopian tubes it may be impossible for an egg to reach the uterus after ovulation. Not only can this prevent pregnancy, if the egg is fertilized the risk of an ectopic pregnancy can increase. While blockages in the fallopian tubes can sometimes be solved by minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, IVF is another solution.
When there is low sperm motility - the ability of the sperm to move normally - it can prevent sperm from reaching the egg. This is also true with low sperm count or abnormal sperm morphology.
For couples at risk for passing on a genetic condition to their children, IVF provides an opportunity to test for those genetic disorders before implantation and pregnancy. If any genetic disorders are identified, IVF makes it possible to select only the healthiest embryos with the highest chance of success.
The IVF Process
In a normal monthly cycle, your body will mature and release one egg. When preparing to undergo IVF, you will begin a regimen of medications that cause the ovaries to mature multiple eggs at once.
Once matured, the eggs are collected in an outpatient procedure under anesthesia. These collected eggs are then taken to the lab where the actual in vitro fertilization takes place. Sperm that has been processed to remove all seminal fluid - an important process called sperm washing which leaves only the healthiest and most mobile sperm - is introduced to the collected eggs. The combined eggs and sperm are then monitored for the next 18 to 24 hours to make sure that fertilization occurs and embryos are created.
If you are interested in doing any genetic testing of your embryos, now is the time. There are two basic categories of genetic testing:
- Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)
- Pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS)
PGD is used for known potential genetic disorders or defects, while PGS lets us identify embryos with the right number of chromosomes. An abnormal number of chromosomes can cause a pregnancy to fail, so this type of testing can be an important step to give you the best chance for a successful implantation and pregnancy.
Once your embryos have been successfully created, a few will be chosen to be transferred. Now comes a difficult part of the process - the dreaded Two Week Wait. This refers to the amount of time it takes to identify pregnancy hormones in the bloodstream and confirm that implantation and pregnancy have occurred. The waiting is horrible, but you can do it! And after two weeks, hopefully, you will find out that you are pregnant!
Is IVF Right for You?
IVF is so closely associated with fertility treatments that some people don’t know what other options are available. Depending on your unique family situation there may be some less invasive treatments that will be recommended before turning to IVF. The first step on the road to growing your family with fertility treatments is to choose a fertility specialist that you trust and set up an appointment. Let’s start building your dream family!