ABCs of In Vitro Fertilization

IVF, or in vitro fertilization, is used to treat problems with fertility and help couples conceive a child. The process involves harvesting mature eggs from a woman's ovaries and combining them with sperm in the lab which essentially fertilizes them. After completion of this step, the now fertilized egg (s), or embryo, is placed into the uterus and the entire process takes around two weeks. The process can be repeated until pregnancy is achieved.

A woman's own eggs, donor eggs, donor sperm (or the partner's sperm) or donated embryos can all be used to facilitate this process. Even a third person can have an embryo placed in her uterus for conception. This means using a gestational carrier when another woman is employed as the carrier.

Factors that influence whether or not IVF works for you depend on such things as a woman's age and the root cause (s) of the fertility problem. Other things to consider when deciding whether to engage in an IVF program are the expense, inconvenience and time it takes to complete the process (not the indication the emotional impact of it).

Reasons for IVF

Before engaging in an IVF program you may want to explore other less invasive options first. One alternative to treatment is fertility drugs that increase egg production and insemination of the inside of the uterus. This involves placing sperm directly into the uterus. Another option is surgery to repair damage to a woman's body that prevents conception. For women over 40, IVF is often the most viable solution since pregnancy is less likely in older women.

There is a variety of physical reasons why a woman may seek out IVF treatments. Disorders like damage or blockage in the fallopian tubes, ovulation problems, ovarian failure, tubal sterilization and genetic disorders are just a few examples of physical barriers to conception. Your doctor will be able to tell you if and which you suffer from personally and what steps are available to correct them.

Risks Involved

There are reasonable risks involved in the IVF process you may or may not be aware of. Ovarian hyperstimulation caused by fertility drugs injected into your body can cause ovaries to become swollen and painful. If multiple embryos are implanted in the uterus, there is a higher risk of multiple pregnancies with early labor and low birth weight.

Other potential problems with IVF include ovarian cancer, premature delivery, bleeding in the first trimester, miscarriage and birth defects, among others. You should look into and be aware of ALL the risks before undergoing in vitro fertilization.

Once You Decide to Undergo IVF

Success with in vitro fertilization depends on many factors: the patient's age, the number of embryos necessary to be transferred into a patient and the number of cycles that have to be employed to achieve conception. Expense is a separate factor that has to be considered on a case-by-case basis since it's often quite pricey to undergo IVF.

If there's a possibility of using your own eggs and sperm for IVF you'll need to be medically screened to determine the quality of your eggs, semen analysis, presence of diseases, embryo transfer ability, and examination of the uterine cavity for health and effectiveness prior to undergoing the procedure.

Additional Things to Consider Before Deciding

1. Older women generally must have more embryos implanted in them because of a lower likelihood of conception. This is not true how for women using donated eggs. The number of eggs that can be retrieved from a woman also influences a woman's ability or ability to get pregnant.In addition, the more embryos that are placed in a woman's uterus, the higher the likelihood is of multiple pregnancies.

2. Extra embryos can be stored and frozen for use in the future, saving time and money if you ever wish to conceive again.

3. There can be complications anywhere along the line with donor eggs, sperm, embryos or having someone carry out the gestational process for you. You should be aware of the risks before deciding on IVF by consulting with a doctor. In some cases, you may need to consult with a lawyer if embryos are implanted.

Stan P. Wright