IVF (In vitro fertilization) is the fertilization of eggs outside the body. It was first carried out successfully in humans in 1977 and has now become a routine process for treating couples who are unable to conceive naturally.
IVF consists of many steps, which are outlined below:
● Ovarian stimulation: The woman has her ovaries stimulated with hormones (usually as daily injections), so that she grows multiple eggs, rather than the single egg usually seen on a natural cycle. A trigger injection, approximately 36 hours before egg collection, helps the eggs to go through the last stages of development.
● Egg collection: Eggs are retrieved either under local or general anaesthetic, and are placed into a specialist fluid (culture medium) in an incubator in the lab.
●Sperm production: The man is asked to produce a semen sample, which is then prepared so that only the healthiest sperm are used for the IVF.
● Insemination: Sperm and eggs are incubated together overnight and the eggs checked the next day for fertilisation.
● Embryo Development: Fertilised eggs develop into embryos and are grown in the incubator for up to 6 days.
● Embryo transfer: The best embryo(s) are selected and are placed into the womb using a thin plastic tube called an embryo transfer catheter. This is usually a quick and painless procedure, performed without sedation.
● Embryo freezing (cryopreservation): Any spare good quality embryos are frozen for future use.
● Pregnancy test: Approximately 2 weeks after egg collection.
Sometimes donor eggs or sperm are used for couples who cannot produce their own, or whose eggs or sperm are poor quality.