It may be your dream to someday become a mother to a beautiful baby girl or boy. Many women believe that they will take the traditional way of achieving this goal: having sexual intercourse, becoming pregnant, and going into labor.
Trying to conceive a baby isn’t always as easy as it seems for all women, and many couples have different experiences when it comes to babymaking. Infertility is a very common and difficult experience, both emotionally and physically.
Not everyone will have a cookie-cutter experience. It’s actually very common for women to have to resort to alternative procedures in order to get pregnant -- namely, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). In fact, 1 million babies were born in the United States between 1987 and 2015 through the use of IVF and other technologies.
What Is In Vitro Fertilization?
Once known as “test-tube babies,” In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) which involves both the male’s sperm and the female’s eggs. It’s a series of complex procedures which help with fertility and also the prevention of genetic problems when it comes to child conception.
During IVF, the woman’s ovulation is monitored and stimulated as the eggs are contracted from the ovaries, and then fertilized by the sperm in a laboratory. Once fertilized, the egg or eggs are transferred to a woman’s uterus. Normally, one full cycle of IVF takes about three weeks, however each step may take longer than expected.
IVF is something you may consider if you need treatment for infertility or genetic problems. It’s also the most common treatment if there is severe damage in the woman’s fallopian tubes or if the male has unexplained infertility problems.
Step 1: Ovarian Stimulation
Typically, one mature egg is produced every month during a woman’s menstrual cycle. When in the IVF process, you will be given hormonal medications which will stimulate your ovaries and provide more eggs in order to increase the chance of success. During this first stage, your body will be carefully monitored, including your blood hormone levels and ultrasound measurements.
Step 2: Egg Retrieval
This second stage will be performed by a doctor. Your doctor will use an ultrasound in order to have a visualization of the follicles and then place a needle through the vagina into the ovary. The follicles will be drained and the fluid will be sent to the laboratory to identify the eggs, in which the number of eggs will be retrieved.
Step 3: Fertilization
After the egg retrieval stage, the embryology laboratory will fertilize the eggs that were collected by IVF. It is known that about 70-80% of eggs are fertilized in this stage.
Step 4: Embryo Transfer
If you plan to have an embryo transfer, it will occur about 3 or 5 days after your egg was retrieved. You'll be able to have a discussion with your doctor in order to make a final decision about the number of embryos you want to be transferred, based on a number of factors such as age, medical history, and the quality of embryos.
The embryo will be transferred into the uterus using a small catheter through your cervix. A couple weeks later, you will need a pregnancy test to see if the IVF was successful.
Is IVF Right For You?
As mentioned, In Vitro Fertilization shouldn’t be your first option. However, IVF may be a viable option if you or your partner have been diagnosed with:
- Low sperm counts or impaired sperm function
- Ovulation problems or disorders
- Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes
- Problems with the uterus
- Genetic disorders or abnormalities
- Unexplained infertility
What Are The Risks Of IVF?
Though effective, IVF can be very intrusive so considering alternative treatment options is something you should consider. Because it is so complex and also expensive, only about 5% of couples resort to IVF if they are faced with infertility. Risks of IVF include:
- Multiple pregnancy: Of course, you are faced with higher chances of multiple births if more than one embryo is transferred into your uterus
- Premature and low birth weight
- Birth defects
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome: The injectable fertility drugs may cause, in which your ovaries become swollen and painful
All couples will have a completely different experience when trying to conceive a baby. Nonetheless, this will be a journey that you should embrace every step of the way -- no matter how difficult or unconventional.