Many couples turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF) for treating infertility. IVF has helped thousands of individuals and couples achieve pregnancy and start families. The procedure has a good success rate when done by a licensed, experienced fertility clinic. In the United States, IVF treatment success rates are around 42% for younger women.
What is IVF?
In vitro fertilization treatments consist of cycles. Treatment begins with suppression of the menstrual cycle so the fertility specialist can control timing and implantation of embryo outcomes. The process involves egg retrieval, fertilization with partner’s (or donor’s) sperm in the laboratory, and placement of embryo(s) into the uterus.
Couples who have not had success becoming pregnant with other fertility treatments may turn to IVF to conceive. Women with tubal issues often benefit from IVF, as IVF is a procedure that bypasses the fallopian tubes entirely. Because of this, women can get pregnant who have had tubal pregnancies that scarred the tubes. However, IVF is not for everyone. If you are 38 years of age or older, you may need to use donor eggs to increase your chances of conception.
IVF Procedure Phases
The phases of IVF include:
- Preparation phase – To suppress the hormone release and menstrual cycle, the doctor prescribes Lupron or a similar drug. The female will inject the medication at home. This drug tells the body not to ovulate so the fertility clinic can retrieve eggs at 14 days after Lupron begins.
- Egg retrieval – This involves retrieving eggs from the ovaries using a specific tool. Specialists use hollow needles that are easily inserted through the cervix into the uterus.
- Fertilization – The retrieved eggs and sperm are combined in Petri dishes in a controlled setting. After embryos form, one or more are graded by a fertility specialist. The best embryos are chosen for transfer.
- Embryo transfer – The formed embryos are placed into the uterus using a special catheter device. This process involves entering the uterus via the cervix and strategically placing the embryos.
Is IVF Procedure Painful?
What causes the pain associated with IVF? With this understanding of the IVF steps, you can see that the process involves insertion of tools into the female’s body. The most painful part of the entire process is injecting with the medication. The other sterile catheters and tools are not painful but may cause some mild cramping and discomfort.
During the egg retrieval process, small hollow needles are inserted into the uterus and ovaries, which may produce some pain. During retrieval, you may feel mild cramping, which can persist for several minutes to hours afterward. The embryo transfer process also produces some bloating, cramping, and mild pain.
IVF Treatment Success Rates
In the United States, IVF success is measured by the live birth rate. The live birth rate for each IVF cycle is:
- 41-43% for women age 35 and younger
- 33-36% for women ages 35 to 37
- 23-27% for women ages 38 to 40
- 13-18% for women ages 40 and older
Women in their late 30s and those older have a better chance of conception with IVF if they use donor eggs. Use of donor eggs increases a woman’s chances of live birth by 50%, particularly when there are implantation problems. However, older women still have a greater chance of miscarriage.