What is In-Vitro Fertilisation?
Where natural conception fails, an assistive reproductive technology (ART) like in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) can help improve a couple’s chances of having a child. That’s because it generally helps with fertilisation, embryo development, and implantation.
As one of the more widely known types of assistive reproductive technology (ART), IVF works by using a combination of medicines and surgical procedures to help sperm fertilise an egg, and implant the fertilised egg in the uterus.
Depending on your fertility health, IVF can involve the use of your eggs and your partner’s sperm; your eggs and donor’s sperm; donor eggs and your partner’s sperm; donor eggs and donor sperm, or donated embryos. You or your doctor can also choose to implant the embryos in a surrogate or gestational carrier.
Meanwhile, your chances of having a healthy baby using IVF depend on various factors such as age and cause of infertility. If you’re considering IVF as part of your fertility treatment, here are some things you need to know.
Why is IVF performed?
IVF generally helps people with fertility issues to have a baby. As it can be time-consuming, expensive, and invasive, couples tend to try other fertility treatments first. This includes consuming fertility medicine or undergo intrauterine insemination (IUI).
This procedure is generally recommended if you or your partner have certain health conditions such as:
Fallopian tube blockage or damage makes it difficult for an egg to be fertilised or the embryo to travel to the uterus.
Ovulation disorders causing fewer eggs to be available for fertilisation.
Endometriosis occurs when the uterine tissue implants and grows outside the uterus, affecting the function of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.
Uterine fibroids can interfere with the implantation of the fertilised egg.
Impaired sperm production or function causing below-average sperm concentration, poor sperm mobility, or abnormalities in sperm size and shape.
Unexplained infertility whereby there’s no exact cause of infertility despite the various evaluation.
A genetic disorder that increases the risk of fertility issues to your child.
Fertility preservation for cancer as radiation or chemotherapy can harm your fertility.
Step-by-Step Look at IVF Treatment
Before we discuss how in-vitro fertilisation is performed, you and your partner will need to be prepared for several screenings which include ovarian reserve testing, semen analysis, infectious disease screening, mock embryo transfer, and uterine exam.
Besides that, consider the following important questions before starting a cycle of IVF so that you’ll understand the process involved.
How many embryos will be transferred?
What happens to the extra embryos?
How will you handle multiple pregnancies?
Have you considered the potential complications associated with using a donor egg, sperm or embryos, or even a gestational carrier?
That said, there are five steps involved in IVF – ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, sperm retrieval, fertilisation, and embryo transfer.
Every female produces one egg during each menstrual cycle. However, IVF requires more eggs to increase the chances of developing a viable embryo. For that to happen, you’ll be asked to consume fertility medicine to increase the number of eggs your body produces. You’ll then undergo regular blood tests and ultrasounds to monitor the production of eggs so that your doctor knows when to retrieve them.
Known as follicular aspiration, egg retrieval is a surgical procedure performed with anaesthesia. Your doctor will use an ultrasound wand to guide a needle through your vagina, into your ovary, and into an egg-containing follicle. The needle will then suction the eggs and fluid out of each follicle.
If you’re using your partner’s sperm, he’ll be asked to provide a semen sample at the doctor’s office or a clinic through masturbation on the morning of egg retrieval. Another method such as testicular aspiration, whereby the use of a needle or surgical procedure to extract sperm directly from the testicle, may be required. The sperm are then separated from the semen fluid in the lab.
Depending on your doctor, fertilisation can be performed using two methods – conventional insemination and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The first method involves mixing healthy sperm and mature eggs which are then incubated overnight. Meanwhile, in ICSI, a single healthy sperm is injected directly into each mature egg.
Embryo transfer is usually performed at the doctor’s office and takes place a few days after fertilisation. The procedure is generally painless but you’ll experience mild cramps. A long, thin, flexible tube known as a catheter will then be inserted into your vagina, through your cervix, and into your uterus. The embryos are then released into your uterus. Pregnancy occurs when the embryo implants itself in the uterine wall which can take 6 to 10 days.
How long is the IVF process?
If you’re considering an IVF treatment, know that it’s not a single treatment but rather a series of procedures that span 6 to 8 weeks.
The first week usually consists of visits and consultations whereby the clinic or hospital takes an extensive record of you and your partner’s medical history. This is also when you should get all your doubts and queries answered.
The next three weeks is when you and your partner undergo various fertility tests so that your doctor can come up with the right IVF protocol. While the procedure may be the same for all, it can still differ from person to person.
In week five and six, the doctor will monitor the outcome of your ovarian stimulation using the prescribed medication. Once you stop the medication, you’ll undergo a procedure after which the ultrasound is done to evaluate your uterus and ovaries.
The following week is when the doctor performs the fertilisation and transfer the embryo to your uterus. Once the transfer is completed, pregnancy tests are done about two weeks later. Depending on the results of your pregnancy, you will then be referred to an obstetrician and gynaecologist to monitor your pregnancy.
Should all else fail, undergoing an IVF treatment can increase your chances of a successful pregnancy. On top of that, IVF can be quite successful depending on the number of treatment cycles.
If you’re looking for a clinic that specialises in IVF, The O&G Specialist Clinic is committed to providing all its patients with the best possible care in a comfortable and homely setting.