In vitro fertilization - IVF

Published: September 05, 2009

What is IVF?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of several assisted reproductive technologies (ART) available to couples who want to have a baby but have been unable to conceive naturally. The process involves removing an egg from the woman’s ovaries and uniting it with sperm in vitro (in the laboratory). Once fertilized, the egg (now an embryo) is then placed back into the woman’s cervix and pregnancy can commence. The woman is also required to take drugs to prepare her for the egg retrieval process and her hormone levels are regularly monitored.

The basic process, as outlined by Shared Journey is:

  • Ovulation Induction (preparation)
  • Retrieval of the eggs
  • Collecting and preparing the sperm
  • Insemination of eggs
  • Transferring embryos to the uterus

How successful is IVF?

IVF is by far the most popular of all the ARTs and boasts a success rate of around 30%. More than 95% of all women opt for IVF before any other treatment. The success rate depends greatly on the age of the woman, which directly affects how healthy her eggs are. Younger women, with healthier eggs, have a better chance of conceiving.

There are an array of health conditions that could limit a man’s or woman’s reproductive capacity. These problems, even if they are mild, can also greatly affect the success rate of IVF. Among these are:

  • Ovarian problems which prevent the production or release of the egg
  • Endometriosis (the growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus) making the implantation of the embryo difficult
  • A male’s low sperm count
  • An abnormal uterus shape
  • Benign tumors of fibrous tissue developing on the wall of the uterus

How safe is it?

IVF is basically a safe proceedure, but as with any surgical and hormone treatment, there may be complications and side-effects, such as:

  • Failure to get pregnant (the most common)
  • Gonadotropin hormone stimulation can cause mood swings and headaches
  • Egg retrieval and transfer can cause moderate discomfort, bleeding and cramping
  • Possibility of twins (around 25%)
  • Possibility of ectopic pregnancy (around 5%)

How much does it cost?

The cost of IVF in the United States varies between $10,000 and $15,000 (all-inclusive) depending on the circumstances. The price is for one cycle of treatment. On average, it takes a couple 3 cycles to get pregnant. If you have previously frozen embryos, you should expect to pay no more than around $3,000 for transfer.

In certain countries, such as the UK, IVF can be obtained through the national health service when certain criteria are met. See the National Health Service for more information.

Celebrities who have benefited from IVF include actresses Marcia Cross, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Helena Bonham-Carter and Halle Berry.

See the American Society for Reproductive Medicine for more information.

Image attribution:  flickr.com/photos/22177648@N06/2364734203

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Published September 05, 2009 by in Health Conditions
Tags: fertility treatment, in-vitro fertilization, infertility, IVF,

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