In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that helps individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility to conceive a child. IVF involves fertilizing an egg with sperm outside the body in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the resulting embryo(s) back into the uterus.
IVF was first successfully performed in 1978 in the United Kingdom, and since then, millions of babies have been born worldwide using this technology. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, 1.9% of all infants born in the United States were conceived using ART, with IVF being the most common type of ART.
There are several reasons why a person or couple may turn to IVF to conceive a child. Some of the most common reasons include:
1. Infertility: IVF is often used when a couple has been trying to conceive for a year or more without success. Infertility can be caused by a variety of factors, including issues with ovulation, low sperm count or poor sperm motility, blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, or other medical conditions.
2. Genetic disorders: IVF can be used to screen embryos for genetic disorders before they are implanted into the uterus. This is known as preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), and it can help to reduce the risk of passing on genetic disorders to the child.
3. Same-sex couples: IVF can be used to help same-sex couples conceive a child. In this case, one partner provides the egg, which is then fertilized with donor sperm, and the resulting embryo is implanted into the other partner’s uterus.
4. Single parents: IVF can also be used by single individuals who want to have a child. In this case, the individual can use donor sperm or donor eggs to create an embryo that is then implanted into their uterus.
The IVF process typically involves several steps, including:
1. Ovarian stimulation: Before IVF can be performed, the woman’s ovaries must be stimulated to produce multiple eggs. This is typically done using hormone injections that are administered over several days.
2. Egg retrieval: Once the eggs are mature, they are surgically removed from the woman’s ovaries using a thin needle. This procedure is usually done under sedation or anesthesia.
3. Fertilization: The retrieved eggs are mixed with sperm in a laboratory dish, and the resulting embryos are observed and monitored for several days.
4. Embryo transfer: Once the embryos have developed to a certain stage, they are transferred into the woman’s uterus using a thin catheter. This procedure is usually done without anesthesia.
5. Pregnancy test: Approximately two weeks after the embryo transfer, a pregnancy test is performed to determine if the procedure was successful.
IVF can be a complex and emotionally challenging process, and it does not guarantee a successful pregnancy. According to the CDC, the success rate for IVF varies depending on several factors, including the woman’s age, the reason for infertility, and the number of embryos transferred. In general, the success rate for IVF in the United States is around 30% per cycle for women under 35 years old, and the success rate decreases with age.
Despite the challenges and uncertainties of IVF, many people have found success and fulfillment through this technology. For some, IVF is a way to overcome infertility and start a family.
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