In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

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In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a type of assistive reproductive technology (ART), and it is a procedure that involves fertilizing the egg of a female outside the human body. Instead of sperm fertilizing the egg within the uterus, fertilization occurs in laboratory conditions. The resultant embryo or embryos can then be frozen for storage or implanted in the woman’s uterus.

Depending on what situation you have, IVF can use:

  • your eggs and your partner’s sperm
  • your eggs and donor sperm
  • donor eggs and your partner’s sperm
  • donor eggs and donor sperm
  • donated embryos

Your doctor can also implant embryos in a surrogate uterus so that another woman carries your baby for you.

IVF helps people with infertility problems who want to have a baby. Since IVF is an expensive and invasive procedure, couples usually try other fertility treatments first, such as fertility drugs or intrauterine insemination.

Infertility problems for which IVF may be needed include:

  • reduced fertility ability in women over the age of 40
  • blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
  • decreased ovarian function
  • endometriosis
  • uterine fibroids
  • male infertility problems, such as low sperm count or abnormalities in sperm shape
  • unexplained infertility

Parents may also prefer IVF if they have a trace of a genetic disorder in their offspring. A medical lab can test the embryos for congenital abnormalities. Then, a doctor only transfers embryos without genetic defects.

Ideal applicants for IVF treatment may include:

IVF helps people who are suffering from infertility problems. Since IVF is an expensive and invasive procedure, couples usually try other fertility treatments first, such as fertility drugs or intrauterine insemination.

Infertility problems for which IVF may be needed include:

  • reduced fertility ability in women over the age of 40
  • blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
  • Women who have endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • decreased ovarian function
  • endometriosis
  • uterine fibroids
  • Women who have been sterilized in the past
  • male infertility problems; such as low sperm count, low sperm mobility or abnormalities in sperm shape
  • unexplained infertility

Parents may also prefer IVF if they have a trace of a genetic disorder in their offspring. A medical lab can test the embryos for congenital abnormalities. Then, a doctor only transfers embryos without genetic defects.

Treatment Duration:

  • IVF takes place in “cycles”, which last between 4–6 weeks.
  • The first stage takes about 14 days, and the egg maturation and removal stage then take around 2–4 days.
  • Fertilization lasts for 3–5 days before embryos are selected for implantation.
  • Embryo transfer takes place about 3–5 days after the extraction.
  • About 14 days after that, you can return to your doctor for a blood test to evaluate whether the process was successful.

Potential Risks and Side Effects:

As with any medical procedure, there are some complications associated with IVF procedure, such as:

  • multiple pregnancies, which increases the risk of premature birth
  • miscarriage or pregnancy loss
  • ectopic pregnancy (when the eggs implant outside the uterus)
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which is a rare condition involving an excess of fluid in the abdomen and chest. This can result when egg sacks produce excess numbers of follicles.
  • infection, bleeding, or damage to the bladder or bowels or (rare)

How Is In Vitro Fertilization Performed?

  1. Stimulation

A woman usually produces one egg during each menstrual cycle. However, IVF needs multiple eggs so that the chances of developing a viable embryo increase. You will be prescribed fertility drugs to increase the number of eggs your body produces. Your doctor may perform ultrasounds and regular blood tests after around eight days to ensure that the eggs are developing properly. Towards the end of the stimulation period, you will get a “trigger injection” to prepare the eggs for ovulation.

  1. Egg Retrieval

The egg retrieval step (also known as follicular aspiration) involves collecting the eggs. First, you will get general anaesthesia drugs, and then your doctor guides a hollow needle into each ovary to obtain the eggs. Before the retrieval, your doctor will use ultrasound imaging to examine how many eggs can be collected. The average number that can be collected is 8–15. This procedure usually lasts for 20–30 minutes, and you can leave the hospital that day.

  1. Insemination (Sperm Production)

After extracting the eggs, the male partner needs to give a sperm sample so that the technician combines it with the eggs. If a sperm bank is being used, the previously chosen donor sperm will already be available in the lab. In case that does not produce embryos, your doctor may use ICSI.

  1. Fertilization and Embryo Culture

The eggs and sperm will be placed in a dish (also known as a vitro), where they will have the opportunity to fertilize as they would naturally inside the body. Then, the resultant embryos are put into a special incubator to grow in optimal conditions. These fertilized eggs can take 3 to 6 days to develop into embryos. During this time, your doctor will monitor them to ensure that they are dividing and developing properly.

  1. Embryo Transfer

The final step is transferring the embryos into the uterus, which generally occurs three to five days after fertilization. First, the embryos are placed into a small tube which is called a catheter. Then, by inserting the catheter through the cervix, the embryos are deposited into the uterus. This process only lasts for around five minutes and needs no general anaesthesia drugs.

To obtain the maximum chance of success and to create the best possible conditions for the embryos to implant, try to eliminate all the stress you may have. A blood test will determine if you are pregnant or not.

In case of having some light bleeding during this time, there is usually no reason to get worried. This bleeding is known as implantation bleeding and is pretty typical, but you must inform your doctor anytime you notice it.

How long should I stay abroad for IVF Treatment?

As previously explained, IVF takes place in cycles that last about six weeks. If you choose to have IVF abroad, this does not necessarily mean that you have to be away from your country for the whole time. For instance, you can do some of the initial tests at home, and you will only need to be at the fertility clinic abroad for four of the six stages. To sum up, these will take approximately 7–10 days.

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