What is IVF? A Simplified Look at the IVF Process

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is the fertilization of the egg and sperm outside the body. At Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, we use IVF to help couples who have been unable to conceive after a long period of trying, to finally achieve pregnancy.

IVF treatment was originally developed in 1978 to help women who had issues conceiving due to blocked fallopian tubes. Today, nearly 40 years later, it’s been proven as a very safe and cost-effective technology to help women get pregnant who wouldn’t be able to any other way. IVF is an effective solution to women above the age of 40 who have problems conceiving due to age.

The IVF Treatment Process 

Women produce many eggs every month, but they only ovulate one—so many eggs go unused at the end of every month. The number of eggs a woman produces is partially dependent on a woman’s age; a younger woman can sometimes produce 20-30 eggs in a month. In vitro is a simple method, using hormones that the body usually manufactures and produces, to retrieve all the eggs a woman develops during any given month.

During the process of taking the hormones, the patient comes in for a series of ultrasounds. The eggs are retrieved in the office during a safe and simple in-office process that uses the ultrasound. Then, the eggs are paired with the man’s sperm (provided through a specimen) and fertilized in vitro, literally meaning in glass, in the laboratory.

After fertilization, we monitor and test the development and health of the embryos. Because of today’s technologies, we are able to test the embryos to determine not only the sex of the baby, but if the baby will have any chromosomal abnormalities, such as down syndrome, or genetic abnormalities, like cystic fibrosis. We can also screen the embryos to make sure they are developing normally and are chromosomally competent, which dramatically cuts down the probability of a miscarriage.

Once the embryos are developed, we re-insert them back into the woman’s uterus and then follow up with the patient in two weeks to determine if she is pregnant. Overall, it’s a simple procedure that’s very similar to a routine pap smear.

6 Things to Know About IVF

The most important thing to know about IVF is that the chance of pregnancy is very high with the process. But there are five other things patients should know about in vitro.

  • In general, about two-thirds of patients will get pregnant on the first try using in vitro. Oftentimes, the in vitro process will provide us with enough embryos for two or three attempts. So if you factor in the fact that a patient might have three tries per treatment, the overall chance of getting pregnant approaches 100 percent.
  • Success rates are very dependent on the patient’s age. As women get older, they have fewer healthy eggs. That’s why it’s more difficult, in general, for women to get pregnant as they get older.
  • There is the possibility of birthing twins. If we place more than one developing embryo in the uterus, having twins is always a possibility. However, the chances of having multiple pregnancies (like triplets and quadruplets) are minimal to non-existent.
  • Babies born from in vitro are just as healthy as babies born naturally. More than 1 million babies have been born throughout the world through in vitro fertilization. And, because of genetic testing, babies born through IVF may be even more likely to be healthy overall than babies born naturally.
  • The procedure is safe and risk-free for the moms-to-be. All of our patients who have gone through the in vitro process would do it again if they had to, because in the end, they’ve given birth to a bundle of joy. The procedure is painless, and in the end, having a baby is the best gift for our patients.

Having difficulty conceiving naturally can be an incredible burden and extremely stressful; the in vitro process takes some of that stress away by offering women and couples the chance to finally have a baby. To make an appointment and learn more about in vitro options, visit Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility online or call us at 520-326-0001.