IVF: A Primer on In Vitro Fertilization

If you’ve ever spent time thinking about assisted reproductive treatments, you’ve heard the term In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF. IVF has grown to be a pretty commonly known course of action when it comes to fertility treatment options. However, the treatment hasn’t actually been around for that long. In fact, the first baby to be conceived using IVF was Louise Brown in 1978. Since her birth though, the procedure has increased in popularity. Just in 2014, for instance, the CDC reported over 200,000 cycles were performed.

Of these cycles, only 57,332 live births resulted. This illustrates that IVF it’s still a relatively rare procedure, and certainly not suitable to everyone. In fact, of the 7.3 million couples trying for a baby in 2013, only 1.6% of infants were conceived using assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF.

It’s important to be well educated on what these treatments entail before committing to them. So if you and your partner are investigating fertility options, then read on to learn more!

Who Might Need IVF?

Women who suffer from ovulation disorders often make good candidates for IVF, as do women with blocked, damaged or even removed Fallopian tubes. IVF might also be a good fertility treatment option for couples dealing with male factor infertility and unexplained fertility, though it’s important to know that IVF is a costly and invasive procedure that might not make a good first option for couples who need help getting pregnant.

What Does the Treatment Involve?

Unlike the IUI procedure we wrote about last time

[link to previous post], women undergoing IVF must be prescribed fertility drugs - there isn’t an option to undergo treatment without. These fertility medications will help stimulate egg production and encourage ovulation (though it’s important to also understand the risks associated with these drugs). It is preferable to extract multiple eggs since not all of them will survive the process of retrieval. This production will be monitored heavily, either through ultrasound or blood tests, to ensure that the eggs are taken out at the perfect time.

Once the eggs are ready to be removed, the woman will need to undergo a surgical procedure, either in a fertility clinic or hospital. During this procedure, her doctor will locate the ripened eggs using an ultrasound, and remove them using a hollowed needle. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and drugs are used to reduce pain and discomfort.

At this point, the man will need to produce a sperm sample on-site that the doctor(s) will then use to fertilize the retrieved eggs. Before the sample is combined with the woman’s eggs, it will be rinsed in order to remove dead or slow-moving sperm – this ensures the highest quality semen will be utilized in the procedure. The couple is allowed to return home and the sperm-egg mixture is allowed to rest in hopes of fertilization.

Afterwards, the eggs are monitored for a few days and if they are fertilized, they are then considered embryos and are ready to be implanted back into the woman’s body. This procedure will typically take place 3-5 days after the initial extraction, and is a relatively painless one. The embryos are inserted into the uterus using a catheter or small tube. Bear in mind, though, that not every cycle will result in a successful pregnancy.

 What are the Average Costs?

IVF is one of the more costly fertility treatment options available. The cost fluctuates depending on the success of each procedure. According to the American Pregnancy Association, treatment can go as high as $15,000 in some instances, and often insurance companies won’t provide coverage. Remember that this is the price tags for ONE cycle of In Vitro. If couples require more than one round of treatment, this option can easily grow astronomically expensive.

What Are the Success Rates for IVF?

Because there are so many factors involved in reproduction, the success rates will always vary. However, in the U.S., the average live birth rate for each IVF cycle started in women under the age of 35 is 41-43%. For women between the ages of 35 and 37, the rate is 33-36%, It decreases as you age. Again, this number depends on more than just age. It also incorporates the cause of infertility, lifestyle factors, as well as the age and health of the male partner.

All in all, IVF is one of the most frequently chosen forms of assisted reproduction -- accounting for nearly 99% these advanced treatments. However, it is still the couple who must decide whether it is the correct option for them.

If you need help getting pregnant, don’t discount IVF as an option. Just make sure you do your research to make sure it’s the right one for you. As always, The Stork OTC is here to help! We act as an excellent stepping stone before taking on more expensive fertility treatment options.

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