In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): What It Means & When Is It Necessary?

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Everyone knows where babies come from… or do they? In today’s time, technology and medicine can assist reproduction that doesn’t require sexual interaction. This is especially beneficial for people in same-sex relationships, those struggling to conceive naturally, single women looking to get pregnant without a partner and so many others – on condition of a viable egg and sperm cells. But even these can be donated in today’s time!

But what does IVF ACTUALLY entail? Are there any risks? And when is it necessary? We’ll take you through the ins and outs of IVF.

What is IVF?

IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilization. In Vitro is a Latin term meaning ‘In Glass’ which refers to the glass test tubes that are used in laboratories at the beginning of IVF treatments. Fertilization is the process where the sperm cell and egg cell meet to form a zygote.

IVF is a form of Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) whereby doctors use medicine, technology as well as the male and female cells to induce pregnancy.

The IVF Process

The first step of IVF is taking medication that makes several of your eggs mature and ready for fertilization. Then, the doctor extracts the eggs out of your body and mixes them with sperm in a lab. If fertilization occurs, the medical practitioner will then put one or more fertilized eggs (now embryos) directly into the uterus.

However, it’s only considered pregnancy if the embryo implants the lining of the uterus where it would then grow.

IVF has many other steps, and the whole process takes a couple of months.

The Advantages of IVF

There are many benefits of IVF – the biggest is having a baby, of course! Couples who are unable to conceive naturally are given a chance to start their family, thanks to medicine and technology.

Success Rate

Technology has also caused an increased rate of success for the procedure. According to Science Daily, over 8 million children have been conceived through IVF procedures since its invention in 1978.

Targeted Help

Modern technology has also allowed the procedure to focus on a couple’s specific problem or situation, which gives them a higher chance of becoming pregnant.

Helps Conceiving Despite Certain Medical Conditions

IVF treatment assists women with blocked fallopian tubes. But it also helps men’s infertility issues like slow swimming, compromised, low motility or abnormally shaped sperm.

Additionally, it can also preselect embryos to avoid certain illnesses and diseases in couples who are known to be high risk which is called Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) or Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH).

The Risks

Although IVF increases your chances of conceiving, it isn’t foolproof. No matter how good things appear, doctors cannot guarantee a pregnancy.

Some of the risks include:

No Fertilization

Pregnancy is dependent on the egg and sperm cell to fuse – but sometimes this doesn’t happen during the treatment. However, this is rare and could be due to poor egg or sperm quality.

No Implantation

Although the two cells can merge, there is a risk that the embryo (consisting of both cells) doesn’t implant onto the uterus. Meaning, that pregnancy doesn’t take place, which is quite often.

Twins, triplets… and even more!

IVF increases your chances of having multiple babies because some medical practitioners transfer more than one fertilized embryo into the women to increase the chances of getting pregnant. Hence, increasing your chances of having multiple babies.

Although this sounds like a dream to couples who have been failing at conceiving naturally, multiple babies could have health risks for both you and the babies.

Stress

Although IVF can assist in your goals, it can, however, add to your stress. Unfortunately, these procedures can be physically and emotionally draining.

What’s more, is that these procedures are quite expensive at the moment – which doesn’t only put a strain on your pocket but your psyche as well.

Note that are other risks of IVF, please speak to your doctor when considering any serious procedures.

When is IVF necessary?

Doctors recommend natural conception; however, when it’s not possible – then IVF may be the best answer for you. Many people have tried this procedure, but these are the most common cases:

Blocked or Damaged Fallopian Tubes

It’s harder for a fertilized egg to move through a blockage to the uterus. In this case, your doctor will most likely recommend IVF if it is possible.

Decreased Sperm Count or Low Sperm Motility

The reason that heterosexual couples struggle with conceiving is sometimes due to low sperm count or sperm motility. This can be improved with hormone treatment, healthy lifestyle habits or IVF procedures.

Some Female-Based Reproductive Issues

Ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, uterine fibroids and other female reproduction issues can inhibit conception. In these cases, your doctor may recommend IVF treatments depending on your condition.

Single Women and Same-Sex Couples

IVF makes pregnancy possible without having a male partner. A woman can choose to involve her eggs as well as a sperm donor’s cells.

This is also useful in same-sex relationships where there are no sperm cells available. Often, eggs are extracted from one partner and fertilized by a sperm donor’s cells. The fertilized embryos are then transferred to the other lesbian partner’s uterus as surrogacy. Hence, involving both partners.

Couples with Genetic Conditions

If it is known that couples are both a carrier of certain illnesses and conditions, then Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis is recommended. This is the diagnosis of any genetic or chromosomal alterations in an embryo which exists before implantation. Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis helps ensure that any children subsequently born through IVF are born without said hereditary illness or condition.

Preserving Eggs

There are certain instances where women would like to preserve their eggs. These women sometimes go through fertility affecting conditions such as serious cancer treatments and more. Later, these eggs can be fertilized and once again be inserted into the uterus.

There are many other instances where IVF may be the answer for you. However, if you’re looking to get pregnant, we recommend trying to conceive naturally first before undergoing serious treatments and procedures. Speak to your doctor today to learn more.

Are you interested in learning about the scientific process behind this natural phenomenon that is pregnancy? See our blog on the different processes that occur during pregnancy here.