Who can benefit from IVF?
IVF infertility treatment can help overcome many of the common problems of infertility, including:
- Damaged or removed fallopian tubes
- Low sperm mobility or low sperm count
- Hostile cervical mucus
- Age related issues
- Other problems with traditional conception such as physical disability
The success rate for the procedure will depend on the nature of the original issue, but is generally around 20-30% per cycle. Other factors relating to the skill and techniques of the clinic involved will also affect the success rate, with some clinics boasting up to 50% success.
In cases of low sperm count or poor sperm quality, IVF can be used in conjunction with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) to improve the chances of a successful conception. In this case, a single sperm is injected directly into the egg to guarantee fertilisation.
In vitro fertilisation can also be used in conjunction with frozen eggs and/or sperm, as well as with donor eggs or sperm, giving many more women the opportunity to conceive.
The IVF Procedure
A complete cycle of IVF infertility treatment takes around 20-25 days, typically starting on the third day of menstruation.
Stage 1 – Ovary Stimulation
The ovaries usually produce just one egg per cycle, so medication is used to stimulate multiple eggs. Ovary growth is monitored using ultrasound for around ten – fourteen days of injections, and hormone levels are checked.
Stage 2 – Egg Collection
When the ovary and eggs are mature the eggs are collected. This is done through the vagina, using a needle guided by ultrasound, and takes around twenty minutes. The process is usually conducted under local anaesthetic.
Stage 3 – Egg and Sperm Combination
Under lab conditions, the eggs and sperm are carefully prepared, combined at a ratio of around 75,000:1 and incubated for around eighteen hours to allow fertilisation to take place.
Successfully fertilised eggs are then transferred to a growth medium for around four – five days until they have reached the 6-8 cell or blastocyst stage. The best of these embryos are then selected for transfer back into the uterus.
At this stage, unused embryos can be frozen for use in future treatments, to avoid having to go through the early stages every time.
Stage 4 – Embryo Transfer
Between one and three embryos are transferred to the uterus, using a thin catheter that passes through the vagina and cervix. The actual number of embryos used will depend on age, health, and other factors, including the legislation that applies in the country of treatment.
An additional dose of progesterone may be given to stimulate thickening of the uterus wall to assist embryo implantation.
Stage 5 – Pregnancy test
After two weeks, a standard pregnancy test can be conducted to assess the result of the procedure.