What is In Vitro Fertilization?
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process where eggs and sperm are combined outside of the uterus to create fertilized embryos. These embryos are then put back into the mother’s womb to develop into a pregnancy.
IVF has been used for over thirty years. Today, it’s the most common method of medically-assisted pregnancy. IVF has the highest success rates of all assisted reproductive treatments.
IVF is ideal for:
- Couples who have been trying to conceive for 6 months or more
- Women who haven’t had success with other fertility treatments (like medication and insemination)
- Individuals or couples with PCOS, endometriosis, low sperm count, and other fertility diagnoses
- People who want to screen for hereditary disorders
- Those who want pregnancy on-demand, including LGBTQ couples and single women
- Couples who want to conceive proactively
IVF is a multi-part process, and the emotional, physical, and financial investments required can sometimes feel overwhelming. We’re here to answer your questions, provide resources, and help guide you through your journey to parenthood.
Depending on your reason for choosing IVF, you’ll go through diagnostic testing to see what the cause of your infertility is. Depending on the results, IVF may not be necessary or feasible, or the doctor might recommend alternative treatments to start.
The doctor will review your diagnosis with you and discuss your treatment options. If you decide to use IVF, our doctor and staff will go over the entire process in easy-to-understand terms. Then, a staff member will go over the financial side of the IVF process with you.
Our goal in these consultations is to empower you with information and a feeling of trust and comfort. Once all your questions are answered, we’ll schedule each component of the process.
To prepare your body for IVF, you’ll need to take birth control pills. It might seem counterintuitive, but birth control helps:
- Prepare your ovaries to respond better to hyperstimulation medicine (discussed in step)
- Coordinate your cycle so you can plan your treatment around your schedule
In addition to starting birth control, we may perform additional tests and recommend lifestyle adjustments as needed.
During this step, you’ll begin hormonal treatments by either taking a pill or an injectable medication. This medication causes your ovaries to produce more mature eggs than they would naturally.
The end goal is to get at least three mature and fully-developed eggs. We’ll track your egg development with blood tests and ultrasounds. It takes time for your body to adjust to the hormones, so this stage can take several weeks.
Once you’ve produced enough mature eggs, you’ll receive a hormone injection that induces ovulation (releasing mature eggs).
After about 36 hours, you’ll return to our office for the egg retrieval procedure. An anesthesiologist will place you under IV sedation and our specialists will remove the eggs. This only takes about 15 minutes, and you’ll rest comfortably afterwards in one of our recovery rooms. After about 30 minutes, you’ll be able to go home.
We perform the fertilization in our state-of-the-art lab with the retrieved eggs and a sperm sample provided by your partner or a sperm donor.
The egg and sperm are typically mixed together in a standard insemination process. If the sperm is not as mobile or healthy, a single sperm is injected into each egg in a treatment called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
Our lab specialists closely monitor the embryos as they develop and will give you updates on their progression. During this stage, we can also screen for certain genetic disorders, ensuring only the healthiest embryos with the greatest chance of a successful pregnancy are transferred. If you’d like, we can also determine the gender of each embryo.
The doctor will meet with you to determine the best transfer plan. Our goal is to maximize the chance of a successful pregnancy while minimizing the chance of multiple births. Your age and prior history with IVF will affect your transfer plan.
Once a decision is reached between you and the doctor, we’ll perform the transfer. This outpatient procedure doesn’t require sedation––it’s quick and often compared to the sensation of a pap smear. Any high-quality embryos left over can be frozen for use in future IVF cycles.
After the transfer, you’ll take a medication that boosts the chances of successful embryo implantation and development. After about two weeks, you’ll take a pregnancy test. If the test is positive, we’ll administer another test soon after to make sure the pregnancy is progressing successfully. If everything goes well, you’ll be well on your journey to building your family.
If your pregnancy test is negative, we’ll schedule a follow-up visit to discuss your options.