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In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In Vitro Fertilization is more commonly known as IVF. In Vitro Fertilization is a sophisticated medical procedure used to treat infertility, by combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory.

IVF requires a cocktail of drugs. The woman takes one set of drugs (usually injected) to suppress ovulation. She will also take other injectables to hyperstimulate the ovaries into production. Finally, when the doctor is satisfied that enough eggs have been readied, hormones are injected to trigger ovulation. Once the eggs have been collected, the woman will take a series of hormone supplements to prepare for implantation.

At the time of ovulation, the eggs are collected via follicular aspiration (the insertion of a needle into the ovary). Sperm is also collected and undergoes a process called sperm washing. The two are then combined. Sometimes the sperm is injected directly into the nucleus of the egg. If fertilization is successful, the resulting embryos are implanted into the woman’s uterus, typically two or three days later.

Success rates for IVF vary widely and couples should be aware that many clinics report successful fertilization or implantation rates, as opposed to live birth rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), live birth rates for each IVF cycle range from 6-35%, with the procedure being more successful in younger women. However, when donor eggs are used, success rates remain high (45%) even for older women.

With its combination of monitoring, drugs, procedures, and the expense, not to mention the uncertainty of a result, IVF can be very stressful on a couple. It is vital to communicate with and support each other throughout the process.

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