In Vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process of manually combining an egg and sperm in a fertility laboratory. After newly fertilized embryos begin developing, one or more of the best quality embryos are carefully selected and placed into a woman’s uterus. Any excess embryos created in the laboratory may be frozen for future use.
In Vitro fertilization may occur with a couple’s own eggs and sperm or with donor eggs, sperm or embryos. Some couples choose to use donated eggs, sperm, or embryos because of genetic concerns.
The IVF process
In Vitro fertilization takes place in 5 steps:
1 – Stimulation of healthy egg(s) in the ovaries
Fertility medications are prescribed to control the timing of egg maturation and to allow the collection of multiple eggs during one of the woman’s cycles.
2 – Collection of eggs
Eggs are retrieved through a minor surgical procedure using ultrasound imaging to guide a hollow needle into the ovary.
3 – Collection of sperm
Sperm, usually obtained by ejaculation, is prepared for insemination.
4 – Fertilization
In many cases, eggs are exposed to sperm so that the fertilization process happens naturally. In some cases, Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) may be used. Through this procedure, a single sperm is injected directly into an egg in an attempt to achieve fertilization.
5 – Transfer of one or more selected embryos into the uterus
Embryos are generally transferred into a woman’s uterus three to five days following egg retrieval. The timing of the embryo transfer depends on the development of the embryo and the best opportunity, based on analysis, to achieve pregnancy.
A blood test and potentially an ultrasound will determine if successful implantation and pregnancy have occurred.