If you are told you have a fertility issue then you aren’t alone. There are millions of couples who are facing infertility and with the help of modern advances such as IVF, are able to experience the life’s pleasures of bearing a child.
If you are trying to grow your family as well, this article will help you to understand the basics of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) and whether it may be a fit for you.
What is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?
In Vitro Fertilization (more commonly referred to as IVF) involves extracting eggs and sperm from partners and combining them in a special laboratory. If the process is successful, then the fertilized embryo is implanted in the uterus of the aspiring parent. For someone who is struggling with infertility due to medical issues or who needs to use donor eggs or sperm to conceive, this may be a viable option. It could also be helpful to those who have genetic conditions or would like to freeze and hold their embryos for a future pregnancy. This method of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has been in use since 1978.
How the IVF Process Works?
Here’s what you should expect when undergoing IVF.
Step 1: Ovarian Stimulation
In the beginning, you will be given fertility medications to stimulate your ovaries to produce mature eggs. Additional hormones may also be prescribed as necessary, such as progesterone, estrogen and/or DHEA.
Step 2: Patient Monitoring
A regular trans-vaginal ultrasound will be used to examine your ovaries, while blood samples are taken to check your hormone levels.
Step 3: Maturing Eggs
A hormone injection of HCG is given two days prior to your egg collection to trigger your eggs to mature.
Step 4: Egg Retrieval
A minor surgical procedure is used to collect your eggs. This takes approximately 30-minutes and involves drawing the eggs from the follicles using the help of ultrasound imaging and a special needle.
Step 5: Sperm Collection
Sperm from the male partner, or a pre-arranged sperm donor, is collected and prepared.
Step 6: Egg Fertilization
In a process called insemination, the sperm and extracted eggs are combined for fertilization. In some cases, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be used. This is a process of injecting a single sperm directly into the egg to assist with fertilization.
The eggs are carefully observed to ensure that fertilization and cell division occurs and they become embryos.
Step 7: Embryo Transfer
Three to five days after fertilization, one or two embryos are ready to be transferred to the uterus for implantation.
Step 8: Pregnancy Test
Approximately two-weeks after the embryo transfer, a blood test to determine if you are pregnant is performed. If your test is positive, then you will undergo an ultrasound two weeks later. If your test is negative, then you may discuss other options with your medical team — you may consider trying IVF again since repeat tries increase the chance of success.
Are there any side effects or risks with IVF?
Like most medical procedures, there may be a potential risk — although quite small. Majority of the side effects are minor and pass shortly after the procedure is done and the hormone medications are stopped.
Here’s an overview the most common possible side effects:
Right After the Procedure
Some people may have some discomfort with IVF, side effects may include:
- Passing a small amount of fluid
- Mild bloating
- Mild cramping
- Breast tenderness
Common side effects from fertility medication
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
Rare risks associated with IVF
A condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) may occur in a severe form, however this is quite rare (only 1 or 2 percent of patients). Careful monitoring by the medical team, as well as a customized fertility medication schedule, greatly decreases any risk.
Symptoms may include:
- Decreased urinary frequency
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe stomach pains and bloating
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden water weight gain within 3-5 days (more than 7lbs)
If you experience any of these side effects, you should see your physician.
How successful is IVF?
Success rate of IVF depends on a number of factors, including age (of the both partners), reproductive history, lifestyle, and cause of infertility. Success rates also vary based on the scientific techniques and the experience of the medical staff involved. We recommend working with an experienced team with an established reputation of IVF successes.
How to Get Help for Infertility?
The first step is to speak to your family physician and obtain a referral to a fertility clinic. Or you can directly search online for good IVF facilities and consult them.