When would a couple or individual choose IVF treatment?

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, may be recommended if a couple has been unsuccessful at trying to conceive a child for over a period of one year and may include a partner who may have any of the following conditions:

  • Endometriosis
  • Low sperm count
  • Problems with ovulation
  • Fallopian tube damage or blockage
  • Previous tubal ligation or sterilization
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Unexplained infertility

In some cases, couples may have tried other methods to assist with fertility such as fertility drugs to increase production of eggs or intrauterine insemination. If these prior methods were unsuccessful, IVF may be used as a last resort to initiate a pregnancy.

How do you prepare for IVF treatment?

Before treatment, the couple meets with a reproductive endocrinologist or infertility specialist and undergoes a complete screening. The examination includes a complete medical history, and numerous tests to detect transmittable diseases and potential reproductive problems. A hysterosalpingogram or sonohystogram may be recommended to identify blockages or irregularities in the ovaries or fallopian tubes. In addition, the male partner may be asked to undergo semen analysis to assess sperm count and overall health.

What are the different stages of IVF?

IVF is performed in cycles and it can take more than one cycle to result in a viable pregnancy. The stages of the IVF cycle include:

  • Ovarian stimulation
  • Egg retrieval
  • Sperm collection or donation
  • Fertilization and embryo culture
  • Embryo transfer

How long does IVF take?

The length of the IVF process depends upon the number of tests that are necessary, medication treatment plan and if donor sperm or eggs are used. From the initial consultation to embryo transfer, one cycle of the IVF process can take as little as six weeks. However, it typically takes between 10 and 14 weeks to complete.

What medications are taken for IVF?

Some patients take birth control pills to regulate the menstrual cycle before medications are given. A combination of gonadotropins and follicle-stimulating drugs are given in the weeks leading up to egg retrieval, followed by an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, shortly before the eggs are harvested. The hormones estrogen and progesterone are typically taken at the start of pregnancy. Additional medications may also be recommended.

Will I experience any side effects from the IVF medications?

There are several medications taken during IVF treatment which can cause varying side effects in patients. The most common side effects include abdominal pain, bloating, weight gain and breast tenderness. Side effects of hormone injections may include nausea, hot flashes, bruising and swollen and painful ovaries. High doses of hormone medications may potentially cause a serious condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and increase the risk of miscarriage.

What is ovulation induction?

Ovulation induction is the use of medication to induce a woman%u2019s ovaries to release an egg. This treatment is used when ovulation is irregular or does not occur at all.

What is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome?

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, or OHSS, is a rare but serious complication of fertility medication treatment. OHSS occurs when hormone injections used for ovulation induction cause hormone levels to rise sharply and over stimulate egg production in the follicles in the ovaries. Symptoms range from mild to severe and may include nausea, vomiting, excessive fluid retention, thrombosis, abdominal swelling, enlarged ovaries and sometimes kidney failure. OHSS can be a life-threatening condition and may require hospitalization. It is best to discuss any risk factors of OHSS with the doctor and to notify the doctor immediately if any symptoms emerge during IVF treatment.

What's the difference between an egg donor and a surrogate?

An egg donor may be used during IVF treatment if the female patient is unable to produce viable eggs. The egg donor will be selected by the patient, and one or more of her eggs are fertilized in the laboratory with the biological father's sperm. This is the extent of her role in conception, and both parties may remain anonymous. The egg is then placed in the expectant mother's uterus. A surrogate is a woman who carries the fertilized egg to term in her uterus on behalf of the couple. A surrogate is used when the female patient is unable to carry an embryo to term using IVF.

What are the results of IVF?

The chances of IVF resulting in a successful pregnancy may vary based on the following factors:

  • Maternal age - Women under 40 are more likely to get pregnant
  • Reproductive history - Women who have had at least one prior successful pregnancy are more likely to get pregnant
  • Endometriosis
  • Lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol or drug use, and obesity

What happens to embryos that aren't transferred?

Viable embryos that are not selected for placement in the uterus may be frozen for possible future use, donated to other couples, or given to researchers for study. The couple will discuss these options with their physician before the IVF process.

How can I increase my chances of conceiving?

Several lifestyle factors can help to increase the chances of conception. These factors may include:

  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Abstaining from alcohol
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Managing stress

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