Inside IVF: Everything You Need to Know

May 25, 2022
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If you've been struggling to start a family, in vitro fertilisation might be the miracle you've been waiting for.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one of the most coveted assisted reproductive technologies in the world, often used in conjunction with other technologies like intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and preimplantation genetic screening (PGS).

What Is IVF?

IVF is an assisted reproductive technology ideal for couples who haven't been able to conceive naturally. The IVF process mimics natural fertilisation by uniting sperm and eggs in a petri dish, in a fastidiously controlled, carefully sanitised environment. Then, once fertilisation occurs, one or more embryos is transferred to the uterus for implantation.

Who Is Best Suited for IVF?

IVF is often considered a last-line treatment when other treatments like ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (IUI) have failed. For couples with some forms of infertility, it may be recommended as a first-line treatment. Some cases best suited for IVF include:

  • Tubal infertility: A case of blocked or absent fallopian tubes, which prevents sperm from travelling to the egg, or blocks a fertilised egg from reaching the uterus
  • Compromised sperm function: Problems with sperm production, morphology or motility
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome: A hormonal disorder that impedes ovulation and increases the risk of miscarriage
  • Endometriosis: A condition where uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, causing scarring and adhesions
  • Irregular menstrual cycles: Ovulatory dysfunction which leads to compromised egg quality and infrequent ovulation, minimising chances of conception
  • Surrogacy: If a gestational carrier is opted for, IVF is essential to transfer the embryo to the surrogate's uterus

What Are the Steps of IVF?

IVF usually follows a seven-step process, given below.

Step 1. Ovulation Induction

As a first step, fertility medication is administered to encourage the maturation of ovarian follicles. During this time, the fertility specialist will closely monitor hormone levels and ovarian progress to ensure the follicles are responding optimally.

Step 2. Egg Collection

Egg collection is a straightforward procedure, performed under anaesthesia. A fine needle is passed through the vagina to retrieve eggs from mature follicles.

Step 3. Fertilisation

Once the eggs and sperm have been collected, they are fused together to create several embryos. This process may or may not be performed using additional technologies, including PGS, PGD and ICSI.

Step 4. Embryo Development

Embryos are left to develop over a period of four to five days, until they have reached the blastocyst stage. They are then graded for quality and integrity.

Step 5. Embryo Transfer

Once the embryo is four or five days old, and has become a blastocyst, it is transferred to the uterus for implantation. You can choose to cryopreserve your remaining embryos for future use.

Step 6. Pregnancy

Two weeks after your embryo transfer, comes judgement day - the day you finally discover whether your procedure has been successful. If it has, it's time for a little celebration. And two weeks later, time for an ultrasound scan to check for a heartbeat.

Step 7. Follow-Ups

Regular follow-ups are recommended after a successful IVF cycle, to rule out potential complications. You can use this time to ask your doctor questions and prepare yourself for the wonderful months ahead!

Must read - Step by step IVF process

What Are the Risks of IVF?

IVF is associated with certain risks, which can be minimised in the hands of a seasoned fertility specialist. Some risks are given below.

  • Multiple Births

If more than one embryo has been transferred to the uterus, there's always a risk of multiple births, which could result in premature labour and low birth weight. Consider this a factor when choosing your hospital. A hospital that imposes a cap on embryos to be transferred,  is usually a reflection of the skill and expertise of its fertility specialists.

  • Premature Labour and Low Birth Weight

Some studies suggest that IVF slightly increases the risk of premature labour and low birth weight. It is therefore important that your hospital is equipped to manage this risk in the best way by priming for a potential preemie.

  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

IVF involves the stimulation of ovaries, to induce ovulation. Administered wrongly, ovulation-inducing drugs can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a condition that enlarges the ovaries, causing significant pain and discomfort. The experience of your fertility specialist plays a big role in minimising your risk of OHSS.IVF can be a godsend if you've undergone a series of other treatments and haven't seen success. With superlative success rates and innovative technologies, it's no surprise it's coveted by so many couples struggling to conceive. It's never too late to make a miracle with IVF; start your journey on Cloudnine today.