IVF is a series of procedures by which the oocytes (eggs) are placed in a dish of nutrient fluid with the sperm and allowed to fertilise and develop for up to six days, creating an embryo. The embryos are either transferred to the uterus of the woman or frozen for later transfer. Sometimes the embryos are biopsied to evaluate their genetic make up.
Successful IVF was first reported with a live birth of a baby in July 1978. There are now millions of children born worldwide to couples following this intervention.
Who is IVF best suited for?
This type of treatment is best for women who have blocked or absent fallopian tubes, endometriosis, unexplained infertility or if the male partner has poor quality sperm. Couples who carry genes which place their children at risk of genetic abnormality or genetically based serious disorders often choose to perform IVF in order to determine the genetic makeup of the embryos before transfer to the uterus.
What is the IVF procedure?
- The ovaries are stimulated with fertility drugs into producing more eggs (ideally 5-10) - normally only one egg is released per cycle. The idea is not to produce too many eggs as this can lead to poor egg quality and can place the woman’s health at risk.
- After stimulation of the ovaries, a number of ultrasound scans are performed over a two-week period, to determine the date for egg collection.
- When the date is right, the eggs are located and collected under ultrasound while the woman is under anaesthesia.
- The eggs are placed in a sterile culture dish and placed in an incubator. If a fresh semen sample is to be used it has to be produced on the same day that the eggs are collected. Alternatively frozen semen can be thawed.
- The semen sample is then prepared by a trained embryologist and approximately 100,000 sperm are placed with each egg in culture dishes in the incubator overnight.
- Any fertilised eggs or embryos are then cultured for 2-6 days in an incubator, before the best quality embryo is transferred to the uterus - other good quality embryos can be frozen for future use.
- Injections or vaginal gel or pessaries containing progesterone, can be taken. Generally extra treatment either injections or vaginal gel are taken after embryo transfer to optimise the chance of the treatment cycle being successful.
- A pregnancy test can be taken in 2-3 weeks.