IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation. The basic process starts by removing your egg cells from your body and also taking sperm cells from your partner or a sperm donor. Your egg cells are fertilised in a laboratory after which your embryo is placed into either your uterus or a surrogate mother’s uterus. The decision on whether to use a surrogate mother or not is taken based on your chances of getting pregnant. For example, if you have uterine fibroids, a surrogate mother may be used as your chances of getting pregnant are reduced. But before you get into that, it is vital to know the four main steps of the IVF process. Here they are:
- Inducing ovulation
In this first step, your ovaries are monitored to learn about when your egg releases. After this, medicine is given in the form of either an injection or a nasal spray, which suppresses your natural menstrual cycle. This is done so that inducing ovulation becomes easier. Ovulation is usually induced by giving FSH. FSH stands for follicle stimulating hormone and is given as a daily injection for about 10-12 days. The reason FSH has to be given to induce ovulation is that many times your natural menstrual cycle produces an egg, which cannot be fertilised, and therefore, more egg cells are needed to increase the chances of fertilisation.
- Egg retrieval
In this step of the IVF process, the first thing done is to give anaesthesia. The anaesthesia is given so that when a thin needle is passed through your upper vaginal wall, no pain is felt. The needle is passed through your upper vaginal wall using ultrasound so that fluid is extracted from your follicles. This is done to help in isolating your egg cells. Once the egg cell has been isolated from the follicular fluid, it will be placed in a laboratory dish, which will contain nutrient media to keep your egg cell healthy. The egg retrieval process is complete when the egg cell is transferred to the incubator.
In this step, the sperm is mixed with your egg cells. After about 16-20 hours, it is seen whether the egg cells are fertilised or not. Sometimes ICSI, which stands for intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection and is a process in which each sperm cell is directly injected into the egg cell. After fertilisation, there is another six day wait before the eggs are transferred into the womb of either yourself or a surrogate mother. If you choose not to have a surrogate mother, you will be injected with hormones, which will prepare the lining of the womb to receive the embryo. These hormones are usually given as either an injection or a gel.
- Embryo transfer and implantation
This stage of the process is much simpler and less painful than the egg retrieval part of the IVF process and can be accomplished using a surrogate mother. A thin tube, which is called a catheter, is passed into your vagina using which your embryos are transferred into your womb.
Irrespective of the problems you have while trying to conceiving a baby naturally, IVF does present a reasonably good chance of giving birth to 29.4% who achieve pregnancy in the IVF process, and 22.4% of women give natural births successfully after pregnancy. Therefore, it is vital to consult your gynaecologist or IVF specialist in this regard.