In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a procedure in which the fertilization of the egg is achieved outside of the body.
Reasons Couples Choose Fertilization In Vitro
IVF is used to treat infertility caused by low sperm count, tubal disease or unexplained infertility. Some couples use IVF to choose the gender of their child.
The Process of Fertilization In Vitro
To fertilize the egg outside the womb and implant the fertilized egg into the uterus there is a unique process. First multiple egg production during the woman’s cycle must be stimulated using follicle stimulating hormones (FSH). This medication is used to increase the collection of multiple eggs and also helps with timing the ripening of the egg. Ultrasound and laboratory testing is used to monitor egg development.
When the eggs are developed they are retrieved from the woman’s ovaries in a surgical procedure called follicular aspiration. The procedure is minor and uses ultrasound to guide a hollow needle which is introduced through the pelvis to aspirate the eggs.
Sperm is obtained usually by ejaculation and prepared to be combined with the retrieved eggs.
The eggs and sperm are brought together in incubators to enable fertilization to occur. This process is monitored to watch for signs of cell division to take place. Once cell division has occurred the now fertilized eggs are embryos. This process is observed until the embryos have become two to four cell embryos.
The two to four cell embryos are then transplanted from the incubator into the woman’s uterus, usually two or three days later. This transplantation can occur anywhere from 1 to 6 days after fertilization has occurred however. The cervix is exposed using a speculum and the embryos are introduced into the womb using a catheter. The number of embryos introduced is predetermined.
The woman is sent home to rest and observe for early signs of pregnancy. Soon after, blood testing can determine if pregnancy has been achieved. Ultrasound is used to determine where the egg has implanted and the viability of the pregnancy.
Risks and Complications of Fertilization In Vitro
There are usually risks with any medical procedure. IVF carries unique risks.
The stimulation of the ovaries to produce more eggs can cause pain and swelling of the ovaries, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, weight gain and feeling bloated.
The anesthesia use during egg retrieval can cause risk, as well as the risk of infection and bleeding at the site. There is also a chance the bowel, bladder and other pelvic organs could be damaged during the retrieval.
The chance for multiple pregnancies is greatly increased, as more than one of the embryos can implant. All embryos have the chance to implant; this is why only a predetermined number of embryos are introduced. Multiple pregnancies increase the risk of not carrying the pregnancy to term.
There needs to be an emotional, physical and financial commitment to IVF, as it is not always successful. The failure to become pregnant can add to emotion and psychological stress.