In vitro fertilization, created in 1978, is a viable option for infertile couples to conceive after all other options have been exhausted. Before considering in vitro fertilization, it is important to understand the physical and emotional rigors that in vitro fertilization can put a couple through. While the result can be parenthood, the process is not simple and results are certainly not guaranteed.
In vitro fertilization is offered through fertility clinics and fertility specialists throughout the world. Finding a specialist is somewhat easy. To find the right specialist takes time and patience. In vitro fertilization treatments can cost tens of thousands of dollars apiece. Finding a clinic with a high success rate is important, so take the time to make the right choice.
Once the fertility clinic is selected, the first thing the clinic will want to do is assess the health of the couple. According to University of Virginia Health, this will involve meetings with a social worker to assess motivation and emotional stability. Later, several blood tests are run to check for any conditions or disorders that may hamper treatments or a future child’s health. Couples will also be screened for fertility problems. This will help physicians to determine the appropriate course of action.
If a woman possesses viable eggs, she will begin a regimen to induce ovulation. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s archives, this process involves taking high doses of hormones to increase a woman’s egg production from one egg a month to several. To check for peak fertility, the woman will be submitted to frequent transvaginal ultrasounds and blood tests. Once the eggs have ripened, the woman will undergo a minor surgery, under mild sedation, to retrieve the ripe eggs from just outside the ovaries. Men with viable sperm may be placed on a special diet to boost sperm production before donating. If a donor is required for egg or sperm, the donor selection process begins. Detailed information on all potential donors is offered and includes medical history, physical appearance and education of potential donors to help make a choice.
Once the egg and sperm are collected, they are mixed and placed into incubators. This process is called insemination. The American Pregnancy Association points out that sperm are occasionally injected directly into the eggs when chances of fertilization are thought to be low. Doctors continue to monitor the eggs until a change is noticed. A change means the egg has been fertilized and it is now an embryo. After the embryos have formed, they are placed into the woman’s body by suspending the embryos in liquid and injecting them through the cervix into the uterus. At this point, the viable embryos may implant in the uterus and begin to grow. To improve the odds of implantation, women are placed on pregnancy hormones for 8 to 14 weeks after transfer. If they do not implant, they will be shed naturally and it is time to decide whether or not to move forward with another round of treatments.
For women using their own eggs for in vitro fertilization, it can take anywhere from several weeks to a couple of months to prepare the body for egg retrieval. When using a donor, expect to add a couple of weeks to this time frame to account for the donor selection process. Once the eggs are retrieved from the mother or donor, it is another week or two before the embryos are ready to be implanted. After this, it is another 6 to 14 weeks before a pregnancy can be confirmed. In all, this process can take anywhere from 3 months to a year to come to completion, dependent upon personal circumstances.
In vitro fertilization is not a surefire method of getting pregnant. The National Institutes of Health estimate that, at best, your odds of getting pregnant from each treatment of in vitro fertilization are 43 percent for women under the age of 35. For a woman over the age of 41, her odds drop to 13 percent. For this reason, it is suggested that couples enter this process with the understanding that they will likely need to undergo more than one treatment.