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What You Need to Know About In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Learn what you need to know about in vitro fertilization in this Howcast video about infertility.


In vitro fertilzation, also known as IVF, is a very commonly done procedure for infertility in the United States and all over the world. Candidates for IVF include women with fallopian tube disease, certain age-related effects on fertility, and male factors in fertility. In vitro fertilization can also be done for genetic reasons if a couple has an increased risk of certain genetic diseases, embryos can be biopsied, and the genetic disease determined in the embryo prior to the transfer of the embryo to the uterus. IVF is very commonplace and it is not particularly complicated when done by a fertility specialist.

In vitro fertilization is not terribly complicated and is not very difficult for the couple going through it, but there are certain challenges. Medications are used that require lots of injections, which are generally very well-tolerated, but obviously injectable hormones are harder to take than oral medications. Anesthesia is used to remove the eggs.

Taking in vitro fertilization from the top, in general it starts by using certain medications to stimulate the ovaries. And then after about 10 to 12 days of the medications, the woman is put to sleep for approximately 10 minutes, and anesthesia is used intravenously. The eggs are retrieved by placing an ultrasound probe into the vagina with a needle guide, and the ovary is pierced with the needle and the follicles are aspirated to collect the eggs. The eggs are then put into culture media, and are incubated together with the sperm to create embryos. A few days later, those embryos are transferred back into the woman's uterus, not requiring any anesthesia.

So, in summation, in vitro requires stimulation, extraction, fertilization outside the body in the incubators, and transfer of the embryos back into the uterine cavity. The chances of success for in vitro fertilization depend largely on the condition being treated. As women age, the chance of success goes down dramatically. Best success rates are noted in women who are under 30, and then under 35. For women who are over 38, the chances of success are significantly lower. In addition, the chance of miscarriage rises as women age. In vitro fertilization is an excellent treatment that has allowed many couples over the years to become pregnant who would never have began pregnant 20 or 30 years ago when in vitro was not available. Talk to your physician about in vitro fertilization.

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