In-vitro fertilization, or IVF, is one type of assisted reproduction. It may be used when a couple have been unable to conceive, or when a woman wishes to have a baby on her own. Although IVF may not be helpful in all situations, it has allowed numerous individuals and couples to have a child.
The first successful birth as a result of in-vitro fertilization occurred in 1978. Dr. Steptoe was a gynecologist in England who worked with other physicians and scientists, including embryologists, to develop the procedure. The baby’s birth made international news, and the child became known as a “test tube baby.” In the years that followed, doctors around the world began researching and refining the procedure.
The success rate of IVF depends on many factors, such as the cause of infertility. As women age, the success rate for IVF declines. Since egg quality may decline with age and affect outcomes, IVF using donor eggs is a possibility for older women. The cost of IVF varies, but in 2009 the American Society of Reproductive Medicine estimated it at about $12,000. Although specific health insurance policies differ, many plans do not cover the cost of IVF.
The process of in-vitro fertilization is lengthy. The first step is hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries and produce more than one egg for fertilization each month. Then the eggs are retrieved by inserting a needle through the vagina and into the ovary. The eggs are then mixed with the sperm from a partner or donor to facilitate fertilization. Usually within five days, the embryos that are considered viable are transferred back into the woman’s uterus.
Variations of IVF can be performed depending on the main cause of infertility. For instance, gamete intrafallopian transfer is a type of IVF in which the eggs and sperm are mixed outside the body but transferred back into the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus for fertilization to take place. Another type of IVF is intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Instead of a large number of sperm mixing with the eggs, one sperm is injected into each egg.
IVF is considered safe; however, as with most medical procedures, there are some risks. One risk is becoming pregnant with multiple babies. Although some women may be happy with this idea, carrying multiple babies can result in problems such as preterm labor. Another complication of IVF is ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, caused by the hormones. About one-third of women will have the syndrome, although the degree of severity varies. Mild symptoms include bloating and abdominal discomfort. Severe cases could lead to trouble breathing due to fluid accumulation in the lungs. Medication can treat the syndrome.