In vitro fertilization (IVF)
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that involves fertilizing an egg outside of the body and then transferring the resulting embryo into the uterus. IVF is used to treat a variety of fertility issues and can help individuals and couples who are unable to conceive or carry a pregnancy without intervention. IVF is a highly effective treatment option.
The IVF process
Step 1: Ovarian stimulation
The first step in the IVF process is to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. This is typically done with fertility medications, such as gonadotropins. The goal is to produce several mature eggs that will be released at the same time.
Step 2: Egg retrieval
Once the eggs are mature, they are retrieved from the ovaries in a minor surgical procedure called transvaginal ultrasound-guided follicle aspiration. The procedure is done under anesthesia and takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Step 3: Fertilization
The retrieved eggs are mixed with sperm in a laboratory dish to fertilize the eggs. This can be done using traditional insemination or with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is directly injected into the egg.
Step 4: Embryo development
The fertilized eggs are cultured in the laboratory for 2-6 days to allow the embryos to develop. During this time, the laboratory staff will monitor the growth and development of the embryos to determine which embryos are the strongest and most viable.
Step 5: Embryo transfer
Once your fertility specialist and embryologist have determined that the embryos are prepared for transfer, you will return to the clinic for an embryo transfer. This is done using a thin, flexible catheter that is inserted through the cervix into the uterus. The transfer is usually done without any pain or discomfort and takes only a few minutes to complete. Any remaining embryos may be “frozen” or preserved through a process called cryopreservation for use at a later date.
Step 6: Two week wait & pregnancy test
Two weeks after the embryo transfer, you will take a pregnancy test to see if the IVF treatment was successful. If the test is positive, you will likely have an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy and check for a heartbeat.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that is used to treat male infertility. It is a specialized technique that is used to fertilize an egg with a single sperm. This procedure is typically performed during in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment and is used when the male partner has a low sperm count, poor sperm motility, or when there is a blockage in the reproductive system that is preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.
The ICSI procedure involves using a microscopic needle to inject a single sperm directly into the center of an egg. This allows the sperm to bypass any obstacles that may be preventing it from fertilizing the egg naturally. After the sperm is injected, the fertilized egg is cultured in a laboratory and monitored to ensure that it is developing normally. If the egg develops into a viable embryo, it can then be transferred into the uterus to attempt pregnancy.
ICSI has a high success rate and has helped many people who were previously unable to conceive to become pregnant.
Frozen embryo transfer (FET)
Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) is a process that involves thawing previously frozen embryos and transferring them into the uterus in the hopes of achieving a pregnancy. This procedure is often used when there are excess embryos from a previous in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, or when a patient wants to delay starting a family.
The FET process starts with the thawing of the frozen embryos, which are carefully thawed in a controlled laboratory environment. Once the embryos are thawed, they are evaluated to ensure that they are still viable and that they are suitable for transfer. If the embryos are deemed suitable, they are then transferred into the uterus, typically using a thin catheter. Prior to the transfer, the patient will start a series of fertility medications to prepare the uterus for transfer and accepting an embryo.
After the transfer, the patient will need to wait several days to determine if the transfer was successful. This is usually done through a blood test that measures the levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which indicates pregnancy.
Frozen embryo transfer is a safe and effective way to attempt pregnancy and can be a good option for patients who have excess embryos from a previous IVF cycle, or who want to delay starting a family.