In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has brought more than 8 million babies into the world since 1978, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology estimated in July 2018. IVF is one of the most widely known types of assisted reproductive technology (ART), used to overcome a range of fertility issues. IVF works by joining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. Hopefully, the egg fertilizes and begins cell division. The resulting embryo is then transferred into the woman's uterus where it continues to grow.
In rough terms, about one-third of infertility cases can be attributed to female factors, and about one-third to men. For the remaining one-third of infertile couples, infertility is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, in about 20 percent of cases, is unexplained (ASRM).
Common infertility factors include:
IVF involves many steps—the entire process can take several months to complete. While it sometimes works on the first try, many people need more than one round to successfully get pregnant. For couples with infertility issues, IVF will increase the chances of pregnancy, but there’s no guarantee. Everybody is different.
In short, there are five basic steps to the IVF process:
Fertility medications are prescribed to help the ovaries produce several eggs (multiple eggs are desired because some eggs will not develop or fertilize after retrieval). A clinician performs periodic pelvic ultrasounds to examine the ovaries and modify medications and schedule the egg retrieval procedure.
Eggs are retrieved through an office procedure that uses ultrasound imaging to guide a hollow needle through the vagina and into the ovaries to gently remove the eggs. Eggs are immediately transferred to a specialized lab.
Twilight medications are administered during this procedure to make the patient comfortable.
In the lab, the eggs are either mixed or injected with sperm cells that were collected prior to the egg retrieval. The eggs are closely monitored to confirm fertilization. Cells then begin to divide.
The resulting embryo(s) are transferred into the woman’s uterus three to five days following the egg retrieval procedure. Embryo transfer is an office procedure where a speculum is inserted into the woman’s vagina and a catheter or small straw containing the embryos is inserted into the uterine cavity. The embryos are carefully deposited from the catheter into the uterine cavity.
Like all medications and medical procedures, IVF has some risks and possible side effects including:
###What are the risks associated with IVF?
IVF has proven safe and effective for millions worldwide. However, it’s still important to educate yourself and your partner before jumping on board. The potential risks associated with IVF include:
IVF offers you the option of using donor eggs, sperm, or embryos. Be sure to speak with a counselor who is experienced with donor issues. They can walk you through the various legal matters related to donation and donor rights.
Success of IVF depends on a number of factors including reproductive history, maternal age, the cause(s) of infertility, and lifestyle factors. Rates of success will vary for every couple.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen, led by David McLernon, analyzed data from the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which collects data from all licensed IVF clinics in the U.K. to create this calculator. It The calculator may help to set expectations of couples considering IVF.
An IVF cycle may end in miscarriage. Miscarriage or pregnancy loss is the natural death of an embryo or fetus before it is able to survive independently. Eighty percent of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriage is also the most common complication of pregnancy, happening in 1 of every 5 pregnancies.
IVF is expensive. Few states have passed laws that require health insurance companies to cover the costs of infertility treatment.any insurance plans don’t offer any fertility treatment coverage at all.
Fees associated with one cycle of IVF include consultations, medicines, tests, procedures, anesthesia, ultrasounds, blood tests, lab work, and embryo storage. The exact cost of a single cycle varies but can range from $12,000 to $17,000 or more.
For more information about insurance coverage for IVF and other fertility treatments, go to The National Infertility Association website.