What is IVF? In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is the most common procedure in Assisted Reproductive Technology. IVF treatment cycles can be used in conjunction with a woman’s natural menstrual cycle, with induced ovulation as a solution to female infertility problems or as part of a surrogacy process using donor eggs and sperm donation.
In vitro fertilization means fertilization outside of the womb. Eggs are collected following ovarian stimulation and fertilized with collected sperm in a laboratory. Resulting embryos are implanted into the uterus using a catheter for embryo transfer.
Fertility clinics often use intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to successfully fertilize eggs during in vitro fertilization treatment. ICSI removes any element of chance from the fertilization process by injecting sperm into the center of the egg. As IVF with ICSI requires only one healthy sperm to fertilize ova, fertility doctors recommend ICSI to couples where male factor infertility is a problem.
Couples where male factor infertility is a problem are good candidates for IVF with ICSI treatment.
There are three treatment stages to IVF with ICSI treatment: Egg and sperm collection, fertilization and embryo implantation.
Egg and sperm collection: Prior to starting treatment, a woman will be prescribed fertility drugs to induce ovulation and stimulate the ovaries to increase egg production. The fertility clinic will monitor hormone levels and perform regular vaginal ultrasounds to ensure the eggs are maturing. Thirty-six hours before egg collection, a hormone injection is given to ensure the eggs are mature and ready for fertilization. Sperm is collected at the same time as the woman’s eggs.
If sperm retrieval is problematic, fertility specialists can use various methods to collect sperm. Retrieved sperm is prepared for fertilization. Sperm is separated from semen, washed and spun before individual healthy sperm are selected. Once the eggs are ready for collection they are removed individually from the ovaries using a thin needle. A suction device attached to the needle and removes individual follicles with little discomfort to the patient.
Fertilization: The traditional fertilization process stage of IVF treatment involves the egg being placed with sperm in laboratory dishes. Fertility clinics commonly now use intra cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to improve the success rates of fertilization. ICSI involves the sperm being injected into the center (cytoplasm) of the egg. This process prevents sperm failing to fertilize the egg due to a hard external membrane of the ova.
Embryo implantation: Embryos can be transferred into the uterus between days 1 and 5. Embryo transfer is commonly performed on day 5 after fertilization during the blastocyst stage of cell development. Transferring embryos on day 5 replicates the most natural implantation process as the embryo has matured and the risk of cells dividing and multiple pregnancies is decreased.
IVF success rates vary depending on many factors and the rate of successful pregnancies varies between fertility clinics. The average success rate of IVF treatment is 15-20% per cycle.