More and more women, and even men, around the world are choosing to use in vitro fertilization or “IVF” to have children if they are having trouble conceiving or need reproductive assistance due to older eggs or ovaries, a uterine issues, tubal defect or if they are family building within a same-sex couple, or are single and need assistance. Many women need and use a donor egg if they are over the age of 35 or 40, or have ovarian or egg health issues, and some women who have health issues or uterine factor may need help with a surrogate in order to build the family of their dreams.
But what exactly is IVF? Technically, “in vitro fertilization” only refers to the process of fertilizing an egg outside the body. However, the term “IVF” has come to be used to describe the entire treatment cycle. In natural conception, the fallopian tube provides three functions: it picks up the ovulated egg, it provides an environment in which fertilization can occur and it transports the resulting embryo to the uterus for implantation. In cases where the fallopian tube is not functional or other impediments to fertility are present, the function of the fallopian tube can be replaced by in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Why do women chose to use IVF vs. IUI or medications or other more natural methods? IVF is the most technologically advanced and successful form of fertility therapy available. The pregnancy rates associated with IVF are the highest of all fertility treatments across every age bracket. This is because IVF optimizes all of the steps associated with the reproductive process. In a natural cycle, only one egg is ovulated, fertilized and implanted in the uterus. IVF augments these processes by stimulating multiple eggs to grow, fertilizing them directly in the laboratory (in vitro) and placing multiple embryos into the uterus.
Today, the number of women using IVF is growing, and almost 2% of births in the U.S. are due in part to some part of ART (assisted reproductive technologies) such as IVF, ICSI, IUI, egg quality testing, egg donation, sperm testing, sperm donation, genetic testing, surrogacy and a variety of other pathways to parenthood.
If a woman or a couple chooses to do IVF, she may be looking at an upcoming “fresh embryo transfer”, but the newest research is pointing towards freezing their embryos and doing the transfer at a later date, possibly to let the woman’s body recover from any medications or treatments that she’s had leading up to the embryo transfer portion of the process. This seems to be leading to better success rates for take-home-baby rates, as well as healthier birth weights, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, with randomized trials showing the rate is 49.3% with frozen, vs. 42% using fresh embryos, and with over 5 million babies having been born through IVF world-wide, this type of medical assistance is becoming more common.