There is nothing more frustrating and emotionally draining than wanting a baby and being unable to conceive. Luckily, the advancement in the field of reproductive science has helped women conquer infertility to a great extent. In vitro fertilization is one such procedure. In vitro fertilization is indeed a blessing in disguise for desperate couples who are not able to bear a child naturally. It is the most common and effective type of assisted reproductive technology that dramatically increases the chances of pregnancy. In vitro literally means “fertilization in a glass,” as human life is generated by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish and then implanting in a woman’s uterus.

The Procedure

The IVF procedure comprises of the following steps

1. Egg cell stimulation: The fertility specialist will monitor and stimulate the development of healthy eggs in the ovaries by prescribing fertility medications. These fertility or hormone drugs stimulate the ovaries to produce several eggs. This is a crucial step as incorrect timing can produce incompatible eggs.
2. Egg cell collection: The eggs are then retrieved through a minor surgical procedure called follicular aspiration. A very thin needle is passed through the upper vaginal wall to extract the eggs. The egg is placed in a culture dish that contains a nutrient media and then transferred to an incubator.
3. Fertilization: The sperm cells are extracted from the male, combined with the eggs and kept in an environmentally controlled chamber. They are monitored closely to confirm that fertilization takes place and they develop into a healthy embryo. If the possibility of fertilization is less, then the sperm is directly injected into the egg and this procedure is known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
4. Embryo implanting: The final step of the IVF process is the transfer of embryo into the womb which is done three to five days after the egg retrieval and fertilization. The transfer is done via a catheter that goes up the vagina and into the womb to successfully implant the embryo. Once the embryo sticks to the lining of the womb, it is said to have implanted and pregnancy occurs. If more than one embryo is transferred twins, triplets or even more can result.

The Symptoms

Common infertility indications for IVF treatment include

  • Male factor infertility on account of poor sperm count and quality
  • Female factor infertility where fallopian tubes are blocked or damaged or absent
  • Hindrance in-between the lining of the uterus and the male’s sperms
  • Women with premature ovarian failure, benign uterine fibroids and rare ovulation disorders
  • Women with pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Women who have removed their fallopian tubes
  • Women who do not produce healthy eggs
  • Couples with unexplained infertility
  • Couples who need a genetic control over their baby

The Eligibility

Eligible candidates for IVF are those

  • Couples under the age of 35 who have been trying to conceive for more than a year without result
  • Couples with overall good health and realistic expectations about the process and what it entails

The Risks Involved

There is an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and multiple births. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is also a rare complication of IVF, when too many eggs are produced in one cycle.

The Impact

A blood test is done fourteen days after the embryo transfer to determine whether you are pregnant. If you are pregnant your doctor will refer you to an obstetrician for prenatal care. If you are not pregnant, it can be very disappointing and you will have to stop your progesterone medication immediately. Your doctor may advise you to plan for a repeat cycle. The chances of giving birth to a healthy baby through an IVF procedure depends largely on the maternal age, embryo quality, cause of infertility, lifestyle factors and the reproductive history.

Since its invention in the year 1978, over a million “in vitro” babies have been born, a figure that is incredibly amazing. If you think in vitro treatment is for you, consult your doctor today who will help you determine if you are ready for the procedure. Gone are the days when all one could do was wait for miracles to happen. Indeed, in vitro fertilization has instilled hope, confidence and the ultimate joy of motherhood to thousands of childless couples. Yes, every year thousands of childless couples become happy parents through in vitro fertilization. IVF is indeed a boon for the childless couples!