IVF or ‘in-vitro` treatment means ‘in glass`, which is where the term ‘test tube baby` originates. However, no test tubes are actually involved in the process. It seems deceptively simple to mix sperm and eggs together until the eggs are fertilised, but it requires closely controlled laboratory conditions and skilled embryologists to maintain. Once the eggs are fertilised, the embryos are then carefully incubated and the best candidates are selected for transfer into the womb a few days later. The remaining embryos can be frozen at this point.
What does IVF involve?
IVF treatment encompasses a number of procedures referred to as the ‘treatment cycle`.
All IVF treatments begin with hormone therapy to stimulate the ovaries to develop more follicles than usual. These hormone injections are self-administered with very shallow injections, and the cycle is monitored by the doctor to ensure that ovulation is triggered at the right time.
Ovulation is triggered with another hormone, called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). The eggs are then collected and fertilised. Egg collection is relatively quick and painless, and general anaesthetic is not normally required.
Once the resulting embryos have grown and developed in-vitro, under the supervision of the embryologist, the best 1-2 are transferred into the uterus through the vagina. Ideally, the embryo then implants to become a pregnancy, but this does not happen in all cases. That is why surplus embryos are frozen so that another transfer can be attempted without having to complete the hormone therapy again.
In some instances, the transfer may be left a few days later so that the embryo can reach an advanced stage of development and becomes a blastocyst. This is only offered in under certain conditions, and our usual policy is to attempt IVF with embryos.
What should I expect from IVF treatments?
IVF is an ongoing process for a number of weeks, and can be emotionally and physically taxing. For the best chance of success, it`s important that you are healthy before the treatment cycle begins, and that you remain healthy throughout the process.
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