Couples struggling with infertility may consider in vitro fertilization (IVF) as a possible means of achieving their dream of becoming parents. Unfortunately, many myths still surround this increasingly popular procedure used to help women conceive.
IVF, short for In Vitro Fertilization, and refers to a form of Assisted Reproduction Technology.
It is a medical process in which a woman’s egg is fertilized by a male sperm “in vitro” or “outside the body.” IVF may be used in cases of female infertility, as well as male infertility issues. It may also be used in cases of unexplained infertility, when a woman has failed to conceive for one year or more of unprotected, regular sexual activity.
Typically, fertilization of an egg occurs inside the female body. If a fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of a woman’s uterus and grows as it should, a baby is born approximately forty weeks later.
With IVF, things proceed a little differently, IVF is a multifaceted process.
Steps of IVF Treatment
There are basically five steps in IVF.
Step 1: Stimulation
Under normal circumstances, a woman will produce one egg per month. However, in IVF, fertility drugs are given to stimulate and increase egg production. While taking these fertility medicines, there are usually transvaginal ultrasounds and blood tests periodically, to examine the ovaries and monitor hormone levels.
Step 2: Retrieval of Eggs
Eggs are removed from the woman’s body in a relatively simple procedure called an oocyte or egg retrieval, which is normally done in the Colorado fertility clinic doctor’s office on an outpatient basis. The Denver IVF doctor uses images from an ultrasound to guide the insertion of a thin needle through the vagina, on up into the ovaries and the follicle sacs that contain the eggs. The needle is connected to a suction device that gently pulls the eggs and fluid from each follicular sac; one at a time. Eggs are removed from both ovaries.
Step 3: Sperm Insemination and Fertilization
Once eggs have been harvested, male sperm is placed with the eggs of the best quality. Mixing of the eggs and sperm is called insemination. At this point, the sperm and eggs are put into an environmentally controlled chamber (an incubator) to await fertilization, which usually takes place in a few hours. Alternatively fertilization can occur by injecting sperm directly into an egg this is called intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI.
Step 4: Embryo Culture
After fertilization takes place, it takes a few days—five, on the average—for the fertilized egg to divide and reach the blastocyst stage. During this culture, the embryo will be regularly checked to ensure that it is dividing and growing as it should, into a blastocyst. If the development of the embryo or the number of good quality embryos are noted to be suboptimal embryo transfer may occur earlier than day 5.
Step 5: Transfer of Embryo
Embryos are placed into the woman’s uterus following the fertilization and culture stage, normally within three to five days after mixing of sperm and eggs. This procedure is done in the Denver fertility clinic doctor’s office. The doctor inserts a long, thin catheter that contains the embryo(s) into the woman’s vagina, on through the cervix and up into the uterus. If an embryo sticks, or implants itself, to the lining of the uterus, pregnancy is the result. The doctor may implant more than one embryo, which may result in the birth of twins, triplets or more. Implantation of multiple embryos is based on a variety of factors. Unused good quality embryos may be frozen for later use.
The advances of modern medicine and technology in procedures such as IVF have made it possible for many couples to conceive that would not have, otherwise.
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