What is In Vitro Fertilisation?
Derived from the Latin word ‘vitrum’ meaning ‘glass’, ‘in vitro fertilisation’ quite literally means ‘fertilised in glass’ (in this instance, in a laboratory dish) – hence the term, ‘test-tube babies’. For more than three decades, this fertility procedure has been an available option in assisted conception for a variety of different reasons. The most common reasons for having the procedure relate to medical problems causing a hiccup in the natural ability to conceive a baby.
Medically-related (physical) issues (such as genetic problems or damaged fallopian tubes) remain the most common reasons why IVF procedures are implemented. Effectively, IVF is an assisted reproductive technique (with various complex stages) that ‘copies’ the natural conception process (a female egg and male sperm are fertilised artificially outside of the body in order to form an embryo).
The fertilised embryo is then transferred into the body (implanted in a woman’s uterus) where the natural process can then take over and (hopefully) result in a successful pregnancy. Sometimes, implantation (as a step) can be postponed, and the fertilised embryo can be frozen until such time as it the recipient is ready for its use. The process is commonly referred to as ‘a cycle of IVF’. One cycle can take about two weeks to complete the series of procedures in an attempt to artificially stimulate a successful conception.
IVF is one of the most successful means of assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures. Although a complex process, there are several options available to try on your journey to conceiving a baby. A woman can use her own eggs, or those of a donor. A woman may use her own eggs and the sperm of her partner, or opt to use an anonymous donation. Eggs, sperm or embryos from either known or anonymous donors can also be used allowing a woman to be a gestational carrier (without being biologically related to a child).
A healthy pregnancy and baby is possible, but will depend on a variety of factors. Infertility causes and age are high on the list of factors that may affect the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby. All factors will be carefully considered and monitored beforehand and throughout the treatment process.
IVF carries risk and some challenges, even though it can result in a successful and healthy pregnancy experience (and baby / babies). Treatment can be time-consuming and costly. One of the biggest challenges, other than time and expense, is the invasive nature of the procedure.
When considering this procedure as an option, it is best to talk to specialists in-the-know and understand the nature of the treatment process and what the potential risks are (weighed against all possible benefits) before making a decision. The complex nature of the process is not something to jump into without much prior thought. A fertility specialist can give you all the information you need in order to assess whether this method is the best option available to you in order to have a baby.
Did you know?
- The world’s first IVF baby was born in the UK (United Kingdom) in 1978.
- IVF has been a standard treatment procedure for infertility problems since 1983.
- IVF success rates have contributed to more than 5 million babies having been born since.