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In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

You've probably heard of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and could explain it simply as the process of fertilizing egg cells in a lab rather than inside a woman's body. What you may not know, however, is that this process, which so often results in happy, healthy "test-tube babies," involves several steps, can last for months, and may take a significant physical and/or emotional toll on your life.

Accounting for 70 percent of all assisted reproductive technologies (ART), IVF is the most common advanced fertility treatment. Since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, the procedure has resulted in more than 200,000 babies! IVF may be able to help you conceive, even if you are facing a variety of fertility issues.

Good candidates for IVF

A reproductive endocrinologist is the best person to seek advice from if you are considering IVF. He or she can help determine if you are a good candidate, as there are many criteria for determining who might be suitable for the procedure.

IVF was first used to help women who could not conceive naturally because of tubal disease. Today, many others benefit from IVF, namely people with ovarian dysfunction, blocked, diseased or absent fallopian tubes, endometriosis or fibroid tumors unresponsive to treatment, male factor infertility (low sperm count), uterine factors or cervical mucus problems, immunological disorders and infertility that simply can't be explained.

Two issues are considered by doctors in advising patients about IVF: Have simpler and less costly treatments been tried, and is there a reasonable chance of achieving pregnancy with these procedures? Based on these considerations, your doctor will evaluate you based on your age and your physical and emotional health. Your doctor wants the procedure to end in a successful pregnancy as much as you do!

What to expect during IVF treatment

If IVF is appropriate for you and you decide to proceed with your treatment, your doctor may prescribe birth control pills a few months prior to the procedure for two reasons. The hormones in oral contraceptives can help your ovaries produce quality eggs when they're needed later, and the Pill can help regulate your cycle so the doctor can determine the best time to begin IVF.

Near the beginning of your menstrual cycle, you will be given injections of fertility drugs to stimulate your ovaries in hopes of producing as many mature eggs as possible during one cycle. Your body normally releases only one. After five days, you will receive another injection to trigger ovulation.

Expect to make several trips to your doctor's office!

By monitoring your blood hormone levels, your doctor will be able to tell when your eggs have matured. Once they have, you will be placed under light anesthesia for 10 to 30 minutes so the doctor may retrieve your eggs. Using a suction needle through a tube inserted into the fallopian tubes through the vagina, your eggs will gently be removed. Your doctor will then combine your eggs with your partner's sperm specimen in a culture dish in a laboratory.

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