The IVF Process – What is Involved?

In Vitro Fertilization (literally meaning ‘Within the Glass’) is one of the most ingenious medical innovations possible today.

It allows couples facing infertility issues to enjoy the joys of parenthood, and what greater gift can any treatment give?

To describe the process in broad terms, a female egg is combined with a male sperm inside a test tube to fertilize the egg, which is then inseminated back into the female uterus or cervix.

IVF can put all the problems, worries and concerns regarding infertility to rest for a couple or single parent.

The Steps Involved

The process begins with a series of checks done for both the female and male candidates, where their hormone levels and other vital information is monitored.

Blood tests are performed for monitoring the well-being of uterus, womb and ovaries for the women.

A detailed sperm count check is done for the men, to find the root of the infertility problem in the couple.

Sometimes, an obstruction in the Fallopian tube, the lack of follicles or improper stimulation of follicles during the production of eggs can cause issues during fertilization. A pre-screening of the reproductive system is crucial before undertaking the IVF treatment, so that the right step can be taken in order to ensure better IVF success rates.

The IVF process is broadly made up of four steps:

Stimulation of the ovaries

Medications are used to suppress the free release of LH and FSH hormones in the pituitary gland post the menstrual cycle of a woman, to allow a better fertilization rate for the mature eggs and prevent any chance of release of the ovarian egg before it matures fully.

Ovaries are stimulated through release of additional FSH hormone levels with the aid of injections, to improve the count of follicles.

Production of higher number of follicles is encouraged to improve the IVF success rates, since this creates a better chance of fertilization.

Retrieval of the eggs

Mature eggs are removed from the pelvic cavity with the aid of a hollow needle, when the desired levels of density and maturity are indicated by ultrasound scans.

The retrieved follicles are stored in a test tube. Retrieval of more follicles ensures higher IVF success rates, as not every follicle would contain egg, but their density would ensure more number of mature eggs, ready to be fertilized.

In Vitro Fertilization

A concentrated sperm sample from the male partner or a donor would then be added to the eggs in the test tube, and the fertilizing activity would be monitored with the aid of an incubator.

A 60 – 70% fertilization rate is expected for a normal sperm sample. However, the quality of embryo always differs from one egg to another, and only the best quality embryos are considered for transfer into the uterus, to ensure greater IVF success rates.

Embryo Transfer

The embryos are monitored to rule out any cell fragmentations and other imperfections, and one or two best quality embryos are placed on a catheter to be released into the cervix of the female partner. A pregnancy test is done after 2 weeks to confirm the pregnancy.

Determination of the success rate

IVF success rates are very generic and differ from one institution or facility to another.

The quality of the laboratory equipment, the skill quotient of the technicians and medical experts performing the process and the expertise of the endocrinologist responsible for monitoring the fertilization process is importance as well.

The number of embryo eggs released and their quality matters as well. There are several clinics where the imperfections or abnormalities in the embryo are neglected before administering it into the cervix, which can lower their success rates.

Monitoring the quality of embryo activity inside the incubator is very important in order to maintain a higher success rate of the procedure. There are some clinics which administer more than two good quality embryos, resulting in multiple child birth cases. Doing a thorough research on the specialization and expertise of the physicians in a clinic, checking on the feedback and authenticity of testimonials, and finding out the quality of the equipment used is important before one undertakes the crucial leap called IVF process.

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