What is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?


In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) provides an alternative method of achieving a pregnancy for couples who have tried and have been unsuccessful with other fertility treatments. In many cases, it is the therapy of first choice.

The IVF procedure allows the union of the egg and the sperm and early growth of the embryo to occur in the laboratory. For a pregnancy to result through IVF, four steps must be successfully completed. Pregnancy cannot occur if even one step of the procedures fails. These four steps are as follows:

1. Retrieval of the mature egg. Fertility drugs (hMG, Follistim, Gonal-F) are used to ripen more than one egg. This process is called controlled ovarian hyperstimulation. Eggs are recovered by transvaginal ultrasound directed aspiration of the follicles. Intravenous sedation is used.

2. Sperm collection, fertilization, and embryo development. A semen specimen is obtained and prepared at the appropriate time in relationship to the egg recovery. Meanwhile, the eggs are placed in culture medium to incubate and mature until timing is optimal for fertilization by the sperm. In nature as well as in the laboratory, fertilization may not occur, nor does development always continue once the egg is penetrated by sperm.

3. Transfer of the developing embryo(s) into the uterus. On the third or fifth day after egg recovery, the embryo(s) are transferred into the uterus. This process is technically much simpler than the egg retrieval in that it does not require anesthesia and is like a regular pelvic exam.

4. Implantation and growth of the embryo(s). After fertilization and transfer, further development and implantation of the embryo(s) in the uterine lining is governed by hormones, receptors on the uterine lining, and other unknown factors. Blood tests will be taken to detect pregnancy. Additional hormones are given to support the early pregnancy.

  Results of IVF-ET Therapy                                                                                                                                         

Couples need to be aware that the federal government requires all IVF programs to provide cycle-specific data to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). The CDC periodically audits all programs to verify information they have been given regarding cycle success. Information on our program, as well as other reporting programs, can be obtained directly from the CDC and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.

Human reproduction is a surprisingly inefficient process. There is no IVF-ET program that can provide a guarantee of success. Success is influenced by the quality and number of embryos transferred, and the patient's medical condition. The number of embryos transferred will be determined by your age and quality of the embryos.

  Information for all prospective IVF patients                                                                                                            

• Drugs, alcohol, and cigarette smoking should be eliminated during the IVF cycle. Pregnancy rates in smokers is extremely low. There have been recent suggestions that eliminating caffeine may increase pregnancy rates.

• Sitting in hot tubs and saunas is not recommended during the IVF cycle or during pregnancy.

• A healthy lifestyle improves delivery rates. This should include a well balanced diet and exercise for both partners.

• All women attempting conception should be taking a specific prenatal vitamin. No other supplements should be taken unless specifically prescribed.