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What Happens in an In Vitro Fertilization Procedure?

Female reproductive system.
Article Details
  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a means of artificial impregnation in which sperm and eggs are combined in a laboratory setting, rather than through intercourse. The in vitro fertilization procedure is sometimes a viable option for those having difficulty conceiving naturally. Understanding the procedure can help give couples and women considering the process a better idea of what to expect.

The procedure of IVF usually begins with screening to determine the best possible assisted reproductive method. Both participants must undergo testing to determine any possible factors that may be inhibiting natural conception. IVF is frequently used in cases where endometriosis, low sperm count, or unexplained infertility occurs. If participants appear to be good candidates for IVF after screening, the five-step in vitro fertilization procedure can begin.

The first step is to boost ovarian activity through the use of drugs. For one to two weeks at the beginning of the in vitro fertilization procedure, the woman takes fertility drugs that cause the body to mature several eggs at once, instead of the usual one. This step is important, as the more eggs are available, the higher the chance of a successful procedure. Men may also be given certain drugs that help reduce the bacterial content of seminal fluid, thus lowering the chances of infection and raising the chance for healthier sperm.

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When the eggs are mature, they are harvested via aspiration or lapraoscopic surgery. Aspiration is a simple procedure done under a very mild sedative that harvests the eggs by essentially vacuuming them out. Laparoscopic surgery is done in rare cases and involves a minor abdominal surgery that allows the doctors to reach the ovaries. Aspirations are normally an outpatient procedure, but laparoscopic harvesting may require some recovery time. Around the time of the harvesting, the male partner will need to provide semen.

After harvesting, the sperm and eggs go through processes that remove excess cells and fluids, in order to make insemination easier. The sperm and eggs are often incubated together for several hours, or the sperm may be directly injected into the egg. If fertilization occurs, successfully fertilized eggs will be implanted back into the woman's uterus within a week. This process is done by inserting the eggs into the uterus by means of a catheter, in the hopes that at least one will implant in the uterine wall and begin to grow.

The in vitro fertilization procedure may be quite frustrating and stressful for many people, especially those already exhausted by other types of treatments. Success rates for the in vitro procedure are quite low, usually no more than 30%, meaning that some people choose to go through several rounds of the process. Nevertheless, this revolutionary technology has provided a means of conception for many who are unable to do so naturally. For those truly desiring biological children, the stress and the frustration may be all worth it in the hope of success.

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