In vitro fertilization is one of the most commonly performed fertility enhancing procedures commonly referred to as ART, (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). ART is the umbrella term used to describe a variety of procedures used to bring sperm and eggs together without sexual intercourse. ART is used to create an embryo by bypassing the factors causing the fertility problem. The created embryos can then be placed into the uterus after development in the laboratory.
In Vitro fertilization is used to overcome mild sperm abnormalities in males, and fallopian tube or ovulation abnormalities in women. Other common uses for IVF are to treat endometriosis, and to enhance success in women of advanced maternal age.
IVF involves four stages:
Stage 1. The growth of multiple follicles is stimulated using injectable fertility drugs. The growth and maturity of the follicles can be followed by using ultrasound and monitoring blood hormone levels.
Stage 2. Once the follicles reach maturity, another hormone, HCG, is given to stimulate release of the eggs. The eggs are removed from the ovary using a minor surgical procedure performed with anesthesia.
Stage 3. The retrieved eggs are taken to the embryology lab where they are combined with the sperm. The eggs that are fertilized will eventually grow to become embryos. Embryos are usually grown in the embryology lab for two to five days prior to transfer back to the uterus.
Stage 4. After growing in the lab for 2-5 days, one or more of the best quality embryos is then transferred to the uterus. If implantation occurs a pregnancy can be detected about 10 days after transfer.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – is performed in conjunction with invitro fertilization when there is a significant sperm defect. During ICSI a single sperm is injected into the egg using a micromanipulator attached to a microscope. Using ICSI even severe male defects can be successfully treated.