For some fertility problems, your healthcare provider may recommend in vitro fertilization. During IVF, sperm and egg are combined outside the body in a lab. A fertilized egg (embryo) is then placed in the uterus to grow. In most cases, IVF is done using hormone medicines to increase the chances of success. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about the details, success rates, and costs of this procedure.
There are four main steps during IVF:
Hormone medicine is used to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs.
The mature eggs are retrieved from the ovaries. This is done by guiding a thin needle through the vagina with the assistance of ultrasound. Sedation is used to prevent pain.
Sperm are combined with the eggs in a lab. If there are problems with fertilization, one sperm can be injected directly into an egg. This process is called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
A few days after fertilization, one or more embryos are placed into the uterus. For many women, the chance of pregnancy with transfer of one embryo is excellent and reduces the risk of a multiple pregnancy. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has made recommendations for the number of embryos to transfer. This is based on a woman's age and quality of embryos.
Although many embryos are created during an IVF cycle, only a certain number are placed in the uterus. The rest may be frozen for later use. This prevents the woman from having to go through another cycle of egg stimulation and retrieval. It is also less costly.