In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a procedure where an egg or eggs are fertilised outside the woman’s body.
The eggs are surgically removed and fertilised in a laboratory using sperm that has been given as a sperm sample. The fertilised egg, called an embryo, is then implanted back into the woman’s womb usually 2-5 days later.
With over 5 million babies being born in the past four decades and success rates increasing year on year, IVF has now become mainstream and widely accepted, continuing to grow substantially due to significant technological advances. It is performed using own eggs and sperm, or donated eggs or sperm, or both.
Common reasons for IVF
There are so many reasons that may lead to IVF. Here are some of the most common reasons for IVF treatment:
- Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS)
- Fallopian tube damage
- Male factor infertility
- Advanced maternal age
- Recurrent pregnancy loss
- Unexplained infertility
- Genetic abnormalities
- Preserving fertility
The IVF timeline
IVF treatment varies dependent on your individual circumstances and the approach of your clinic. In a normal ovulation cycle, one egg will mature each month. The goal of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle is to have many mature eggs available, as this will increase your chances of success with treatment. In order for there to be more than one egg available, stimulation of the ovaries needs to occur and the whole process will normally take between 4-6 weeks.
Around the time your partner’s eggs are collected, you will be asked to produce a sample of sperm. The sperm will then be washed and prepared so that the active, normal sperm are separated from the poorer-quality sperm. If you have stored sperm, it will be removed from frozen storage, thawed and prepared in the same way. The egg will then be bathed with the better quality sperm or if ICSI is chosen, then the best individual sperm will be injected into the egg.
Before your treatment starts you will be asked to have specific blood tests and to complete various consent forms. Treatment then typically involves the stages listed here.