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In Vitro Fertilization: The Facts

Updated on May 2, 2016

In Vitro Fertilization: The Facts

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is an assisted reproductive technology that can help infertile couples to have a baby. The IVF procedure involves several steps. First, the woman is given hormones to stimulate the production of eggs by her ovary. The eggs produced are then harvested. The sperm is taken from the man, and the eggs and sperm are put together in a petri dish in the laboratory. The fertilized eggs, or embryos, are then transplanted back into the woman’s uterus in anticipation of pregnancy. This entire IVF process is called a cycle, and a couple may have to go through more than one cycle to become pregnant.

The History of IVF

As reported in an article in theguardian.com, the scientist Robert Edwards and his colleague Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist, created the first IVF baby. Edwards and Steptoe began work in the 1960s, but it was not until 1978 that Louise Brown, the first successful IVF baby, was born. In 1980, Australia had its first successful IVF procedure, followed by the US in 1980. Since those early years, the IVF procedure has evolved a lot, and has become much more accessible, given the many thousands of IVF clinics around the world. In fact, new research is going on to make the IVF treatment much cheaper; fertility doctors in Belgium are experimenting with a technique that replaces expensive medical equipment with common kitchen ingredients such as bicarbonate of soda and citric acid, and are getting success rates similar to those achieved by the traditional IVF procedure.

Who can benefit from IVF?

IVF is a costly and complicated procedure. According to an article on webmd.com, IVF may be indicated in the following cases:

a) Unexplained infertility

b) endometriosis

c) low sperm count or motility issues

d) problems with the uterus or the fallopian tubes

e) problems with ovulation

f) antibody problems that damage the sperm or eggs

When an infertile couple visits a fertility center, such as the Rainbow Hospital Fertility Care Centre, the doctors will do a variety of tests on the couple to determine the causes of the infertility. As reported by an article on the eshre.eu website, 20 to 30% of infertility cases are explained by physiological causes in men, 20 to 35% by physiological issues in women, and 25 to 40% due to infertility problems in both the partners. IVF is usually not the first treatment suggested once the causes of infertility are determined; other treatments such as fertility drugs and/or surgery are usually the first options used.

Success Rate of the IVF Procedure

The IVF process is costly and can take a long time and multiple rounds. According to an article on businessinsider.in, 2014 data from the Centers of Disease Control in the US show that 36% of IVF cycles result in pregnancy, while 29.4% of cycles result in a baby. Age matters when it comes to the success of IVF. While 40% of IVF cycles result in a successful pregnancy in women aged 32 and below, the success rate is halved to less than 20% in women older than 40.

Risks of Undergoing IVF

There are several risks of undergoing the IVF procedure, and couples must discuss these risks thoroughly with their doctor. According to an article on hfea.gov.uk, there could be side effects to the hormones used for stimulating ovulation. Another risk is ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, where fertility drugs cause a swollen and painful stomach, with nausea and vomiting. Ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo develops in the fallopian tube rather than in the uterus, can also occur with IVF. Lastly, there is the risk of multiple pregnancies, as the IVF process involves transferring up to three embryos in the uterus.

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