If you are facing infertility then you aren’t alone. Approximately 1 in every 10 couples in the United States are struggling. In Canada, that number is almost 1 in 6. If you are trying to grow your family, this article will help you to understand the basics of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and whether it may be a fit for you.
What is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?
In Vitro Fertilization (commonly referred to as IVF) involves extracting eggs and sperm and combining them in a special laboratory. If the process is successful, then the fertilized embryo is implanted in the uterus of the aspiring parent (or a gestational surrogate). It is a viable option for someone who is struggling with infertility due to medical issues or who needs to use donor eggs or sperm to conceive. It can also be helpful to those who have genetic conditions or would like to freeze and hold their embryos for a future pregnancy. This method of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has been around since 1978.
The IVF Treatment Process
Here’s what you can expect when undergoing IVF.
Step 1: Ovarian Stimulation
You will be given fertility medications to stimulate your ovaries to produce mature eggs. Additional hormones may also be prescribed, such as progesterone, estrogen and/or DHEA.
Step 2: Patient Monitoring
A transvaginal ultrasound will be used to examine your ovaries, while blood samples are taken to check your hormone levels.
Step 3: Maturing Eggs
A hormone injection of HCG is given two days prior to your egg collection to trigger your eggs to mature.
Step 4: Egg Retrieval
A minor surgical procedure is used to retrieve your eggs. This takes approximately 30-minutes and involves drawing the eggs from the follicles using the help of ultrasound imaging and a special needle.
Step 5: Sperm Collection
Sperm from the male partner, or a pre-arranged sperm donor, is collected and prepared.
Step 6: Egg Fertilization
In a process called insemination, the sperm and extracted eggs are combined to encourage fertilization. In some cases, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be used. This is the process of injecting a single sperm directly into the egg to assist with fertilization.
The eggs are carefully observed to ensure that fertilization and cell division occurs until they become embryos.
Step 7: Embryo Transfer
Three to five days after fertilization, one or two embryos are ready to be transferred to your uterus (or that of a pre-arranged surrogate) for implantation.
Step 8: Pregnancy Test
Approximately two-weeks after the embryo transfer, you will have a blood test to determine if you are pregnant. If your pregnancy test is positive, then you will have an ultrasound two weeks later. If your test is negative, then you can discuss options with your medical team — you may consider trying IVF again since repeat tries increase the chance of success.
Are there any side effects?
Like most medical procedures, there is a potential risk — although this is quite small. The vast majority of side effects are minor and pass shortly after the procedure is done and additional hormone medications are stopped. Here’s an overview the most common possible side effects:
Right After the Procedure
In most cases, there is minimal discomfort with IVF, except for mild cramping. Other side effects may include:
- Passing a small amount of fluid
- Mild bloating
- Mild cramping
- Breast tenderness
Common side effects from fertility medication
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
Rare risks associated with IVF
A condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) can occur in a severe form, however this is quite rare (only 1 or 2 percent of patients). Careful monitoring by the medical team, as well as a customized fertility medication schedule, greatly decreases any risk.
Symptoms can include:
- Decreased urinary frequency
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe stomach pains and bloating
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden water weight gain within 3-5 days (more than 7lbs)
If you experience any of these side effects, you should see your physician right away.
How successful is IVF?
Success rates of IVF depend on a number of factors, including age, reproductive history, lifestyle, and cause of infertility. Success rates also vary based on the scientific techniques and the experience of the medical staff involved. We recommend working with an experienced team, such as, ELITE IVF, a global fertility agency with a 72% pregnancy success rate and more than 7,500 patients.
How to Get Help for Infertility
The first step is to speak to your family physician and obtain a referral to a fertility clinic in your area. If you are already working with a fertility clinic and seeking support for egg donation, surrogacy or conventional IVF, then reach out to ELITE IVF for a free phone consultation. They can help guide you on available options for fertility tests, treatment and programs.