For those couples who are having difficulty getting pregnant, one option to pursue is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). So, what is IVF? It is a medical process whereby the fertilization of a woman’s egg by her partner’s sperm is performed in a laboratory.
What is IVF
To begin an IVF transfer, a woman will need to take prescription fertility medications to control the ripening of the egg and make it possible for a doctor to collect more than one egg. This ensures a greater rate of IVF pregnancy success. This process is called ovulation induction and it allows the physician to oversee the egg development using ultrasound and blood samples for hormone levels.
The eggs are then collected in a minor surgical procedure to navigate a hollow needle (called the follicular aspiration) through the vaginal opening and into the pelvic cavity. Some patients opt for sedation or local anesthesia. Once the eggs are removed, cramping may occur but should last only until the following day. Please be advised that after an IVF – Invitro procedure, pressure may continue for several weeks.
In a laboratory, the eggs are combined with sperm from an intended donor and are placed in the lab’s incubator to create ideal fertility and fertilization conditions. This is called insemination and should there be any difficulty in the process, an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be used. This entails injecting a single sperm into the egg creating fertilization.
Once the IVF fertilization is complete and cell division is occurring, the embryo is then transferred into the woman’s uterus using a speculum and catheter inserted into the woman’s womb within one to six days following the egg retrieval. This is usually a pain-free procedure but it can cause mild cramping for some women. Typically, the medical community recommends no more than four embryos – IVF transfer per IVF cycle for success. Any additional embryos could lead to multiple pregnancies and complications.
A blood test and a possible ultrasound will be used to confirm that implantation, fertilization and pregnancy has occurred. It is important to note that a blood test may confirm pregnancy but a miscarriage could occur before the ultrasound is given. An ultrasound confirmation is known as a clinical pregnancy.
IVF is quite successful for women depending on a number of factors. According to americanpregnancy.org, “It is also important to realize that pregnancy rates do not equate to live birth rates. In the United States, the live birth rate for each IVF cycle started is approximately:
• 30 to 35% for women under age 35
• 25% for women ages 35 to 37
• 15 to 20% for women ages 38 to 40
• 6 to 10% for women ages over 40
The success rates of US clinics are published on the web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Like all medical procedures, undergoing an IVF – Invitro procedure could carry some risks, as uncommon as they are. Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome, a painful condition where the ovaries swell, include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or a feeling of being bloated. More severe symptoms which occur in 1% of cases include: severe abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, decreased urinary frequency, shortness of breath and a ten pound weight game within 3-5 days.
Other IVF pregnancy risks include bleeding, infection, and damage to the bowel, bladder, or a blood vessel. It is important to note that less than one in 1,000 IVF patients will require surgery to repair damage caused during the egg retrieval process.
The cost of the IVF – Invitro process in the U.S. is not cheap with prices starting around $13,000 and going is high up as $40,000. Depending upon which state you live in, medical insurance may not cover your procedure. Many patients seeking IVF have taken advantage of the convenience of travelling “south of the border” to Mexico for the same high quality procedure at much lower prices. Mexico is one of the leading destinations for medical tourism and this includes fertility treatments such as IVF. Most IVF specialists speak English and some have been trained in the U.S.
When they include medical travel costs, many couples can save up to 50% on the entire process. For many patients, combining an IVF procedure and a vacation is quite a way to celebrate a new stage of life!