15 Jul In Vitro Fertilization – The Basics
The process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the basic treatments for infertility. It has been in use since 1978 when the first in vitro child was born. It is estimated that there have been 8 million IVF babies born since the process was first used and today highly professional fertility clinics frequently post success rates of 35 percent and higher using this technique.
There are basically five steps involved IVF conception and implantation, including the final step of confirming the embryos have been successfully implanted in the patient’s uterus. You might also count the pre-IVF process as a step, as a preliminary consultation and a full medical workup always precede the first step of the IVF process.
What does IVF mean?
IVF stands for in vitro fertilization, but what does that mean? In vitro is a Latin term that means “in the glass” or “within the glass.” In this case, it refers to fertilization, the penetration of the egg by the sperm, occurring in a glass container. Often a sterile petri dish is used, but the shape of the dish is not that important. Petri dishes just happen to have low sides, which makes them handy for laboratory work.
After consultations with a physician and a fertility specialist, which includes an extensive look into the medical histories of both mother and father or sperm or egg donors, the IVF process can begin. The first step is referred to as “hyperstimulation of the ovaries.”
Hyperstimulation of the ovaries is done by giving the patient multiple injections of a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This is commonly done at home with self-administered shots or help from the woman’s partner. The idea is to trigger the formation of multiple egg-producing follicles, instead of the single follicle, during the normal menstrual cycle.
FSH injections usually take place from eight to 11 days. This can cause the formation of up to 15 or more follicles, which allows for the retrieval of 15 or more eggs.
Step two in the in vitro fertilization process is egg retrieval. Luckily, the FSH injections not only trigger the growth of multiple follicles, but they also tend to synchronize follicle growth, so that egg retrieval from many follicles can be done at the same time.
Egg retrieval involves a minor surgical procedure. This starts with the mother or egg donor under anesthesia. It is done in a clinic or a hospital setting.
Although the procedure is considered minor, the patient is expected to take the day off from physical exertion, while they recover. The process takes up to a half hour, often less than that. Doctors use a very thin needle to extract follicular fluid through the vaginal wall. The fluid is then examined to serif viable (mature) eggs are available.
Step three is fertilization. Yes, even with in vitro fertilization, it takes two to tango. Usually, on the same day that the egg retrieval process is being done, doctors will collect a semen sample from the father or sperm donor. The sperm is then put together with the eggs that have been put in a petri dish along with a nutrient-rich fluid. This is then put into an incubator overnight.
However, a second process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection might be used if doctors believe the sperm motility is too low to ensure fertilization. The ICSI process involves using a single sperm and injecting that into the egg directly by use of a glass needle.
After doctors have confirmed that fertilization has taken place, the combined egg and sperm – now called an embryo – needs to be placed into the woman’s uterus, where it can develop into a fetus and, in time, a baby boy or girl. This step is called embryo transfer.
This usually takes place three or four days after fertilization. This time, however, doctors use a catheter, not a needle, to place the embryos behind the woman’s cervix. This is not considered a surgical procedure, although a catheter inserted through the cervix can be an uncomfortable experience.
Step 5 – Congratulations are in order!
The last step in the process is to confirm embryo implantation. This is the step in which an embryo or embryos connect to the uterine wall, where it or they begin to absorb nutrients.
Doctors usually rely on two follow up tests to confirm that the embryos are in place and that pregnancy has officially begun. The tests are done a few weeks after the embryo implantation has occurred and a week after that to confirm the results of the first test.
Make a Call
To discuss our full range of infertility treatment options, please call the Pacific Reproductive Centers at 866-423-2645. We have an office in California in Glendale, Torrance, Irvine, and Corona.