Normal human fertilization occurs within the female’s body.
When the sperm fuses with the egg cell or ovum, an embryo is formed, and a new life begins. Healthy couples achieve fertilization without difficulty, but those who are “reproductively-challenged” or infertile opt for other ways to conceive. One very popular way is through in vitro fertilization or IVF.
Introduction To IVF
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In vitro fertilization was introduced during the late 1980s, offering infertile couples a chance of having a child of their own. In the United States, the procedure was first performed in 1981. Ever since its success, IVF had allowed more than 250,000 babies to be conceived and born. IVF is a method of assisted reproduction that was first fashioned for couples who are infertile because of fallopian tube difficulty, but it was discovered that it also worked for infertility problems caused by other factors.
IVF works like this: a woman’s egg cells and a man’s sperm cells are taken out and then combined in a laboratory dish, where they are allowed to fertilize. After 40 hours, the eggs are observed if fertilized and became embryos, and whether they are dividing into cells or not. When the embryos form, they are transferred back to the woman’s uterus where they can naturally implant and develop. Every attempt of this is called a cycle, and usually, two to four embryos are placed inside the woman’s uterus at a time.
The term “in vitro” is of Latin origin, meaning “in glass”, because the first experiments of tissues cultivating outside the living organisms where they came made use of glass containers like test tubes and beakers. The other popular term associated with in vitro fertilization is “test tube baby”, referring to an infant conceived through the method, even though the commonly used containers are petri dishes, made either of glass or plastic
According to statistics, about 5% of infertile couples turn to IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). Women who have damaged, blocked or no fallopian tubes turn to this treatment. Men with low sperm count can also turn to IVF.
The IVF Procedure
The woman is given several drugs or hormones that help stimulate her ovaries to produce egg cells before the procedure to remove them.
A needle is inserted through the vagina, into the woman’s ovary, to remove her eggs. This can also be performed using laparoscopic surgery, although the needle technique is easier and more invasive. General anesthesia is not needed for this part, although the woman can have sedating medication.
The fluid from the woman is observed in the laboratory, and is made sure to contain egg cells.
The man provides a semen sample through masturbation. He must refrain from having intercourse with the woman for a few days before. In the laboratory, the sperm cells are then taken from the semen.
The active sperm cells are mixed in the laboratory dish along with the egg cells.
Eighteen hours after the fertilization procedure, the egg or eggs fertilized are then observed, since it can then be determined whether they have begun growing as embryos. For the next two or three days, they are incubated and observed.
Using a long slender tube called a catheter, the doctor transfers the embryo to the woman’s uterus through the cervix. For the next few hours after this step, the woman must remain lying down.
For the next two weeks, the woman is given hormones. If implantation occurs (the egg or eggs attached to the uterine wall grow and develop) pregnancy is positive.
Pregnancy After Menopause Through IVF
When women reach menopause, they stop producing egg cells, meaning it becomes impossible for them to conceive. Surprisingly, IVF allows women to overcome this natural barrier. A menopausal woman who wants to become pregnant can receive egg cells from a donor, while her male partner can provide the sperm cells. As long as her uterus has been properly prepared, implantation can occur and she can give birth to the baby.
Factors To Consider
Before undergoing vitro fertilization, it’s important to understand several concerns regarding this procedure. You must also undergo tests to see if this external fertilization will work for you. Here are other factors you should know about IVF.
Woman’s age – Women 35 years old or younger are more successful when undergoing this procedure, although older women can also achieve good results. Their egg cells must not have any problem with their partner’s sperm.
Possibility of more than one child – IVF makes it possible for a couple to conceive more than one child at a time. Among women who delivered live births with IVF, 5% are triplets, 32% are twins and 63% are single babies (In Vitro Fertilization).
Expenses – The cost of In Vitro fertilization is one of the procedure’s major downsides. Every cycle costs $12,400 on average (In Vitro Fertilization).
Defects – Although IVF generally produces normal, healthy births, there is a slightly increased risk of genetic disorders in children through this kind of reproduction.
Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful and wonderful experiences a couple can go through, but unfortunately, not every couple is blessed with the ability to reproduce naturally. Thankfully, technology has paved way for reproductively-challenged couples to have their own baby, such as through in vitro fertilization. Although it has its share of downsides, this procedure can give couples their own little bundle of joy.