What is In-Vitro Fertilization, and How Does it Work?
What is In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and how does IVF work? The steps involved in in-vitro fertilization and the questions that accompany the process along the way.
When deciding if in vitro fertilization is right for you, so many questions can arise, such as how much does IVF cost? Is it painful? What is the success rate? In this article, we review these and more to help you determine if IVF might be a good option for you.
What is in-vitro fertilization?
In-vitro fertilization (IVF) involves stimulating the ovaries to produce eggs, removing eggs, fertilizing them outside the body in an embryology lab, growing embryos, and then transferring an embryo into a uterus in the hopes of achieving a successful pregnancy.
There are many reasons people choose to pursue IVF when building their family, including various causes of infertility, wanting to utilize genetic testing on embryos, or moving on from other fertility treatments that have been unsuccessful.
What is the IVF Process?
An IVF treatment cycle takes a period of a few months. Typically, medications are administered to stimulate the ovaries and produce as many eggs as possible. The eggs are removed from the body during an egg retrieval procedure. The eggs are then mixed with sperm in a lab, hopefully facilitating fertilization. Instead of standard insemination in many cases, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is performed in conjunction with IVF which is the process of injecting a single sperm into an egg’s cytoplasm to promote fertilization.
Embryos are then grown in the embryology lab. At this stage, preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) may be administered. PGT, formerly referred to as Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), is the testing of embryos for genetic diseases and chromosomal disorders. PGT can in significantly decrease the chance of having a child with a certain genetic or chromosomal condition.
The final step in the IVF process is embryo transfer, a minor procedure utilizing ultrasound guidance to place the embryo inside the uterus.
Is IVF painful?
A common concern of those considering IVF treatment is if the process is painful. While reactions to treatment vary, most patients only experience minor discomfort from medication injections.
The fertility medications can cause nausea, breast tenderness, temporary allergic reactions, mood swings, and fatigue. So IVF may be “painful” at times, but patients do not typically undergo any serious pain or discomfort.
Individuals and couples pursuing IVF are often experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions.
Some may be managing grief from infertility or having to reimagine their path to parenthood on top of navigating a complex fertility journey. Be sure to talk to your doctor regularly during this time, and keep your mental health a top priority.
What are the potential risks or side effects?
Like with any medical procedure, it’s good to know what risks or side effects could be involved. With IVF, there are a few things to consider and discuss with your doctor. With IVF, there is a higher chance for multiple births, although measures are taken to ensure minimal risk of that.
With the amounts of medication necessary to produce a sufficient amount of viable eggs, there is a very small chance for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, in which the ovaries become swollen and painful. It will take about a week before uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea subside.
Some research has found that there is a higher chance for premature births and lower birth weights in children born as a result of IVF.
How much does IVF cost?
In the US, a single round of IVF treatment ranges from $15,000-30,000. The largest cost is probably that of the medication, taking up about 35%. One cycle of IVF includes the medication period, egg retrieval, and embryo transfer.
Sometimes insurance will cover a portion of the costs, depending on what type of insurance you have and whether you live in a state that requires an employer to include IVF treatment under their insurance policies; there are currently nineteen states requiring this of larger companies.
There are also options to look into for financial assistance and help finance your IVF treatment. There are usually programs for military personnel as well as scholarships and grants available. Some programs are dual research programs for hospitals and can get you treated for a much more affordable amount.
Estimate your treatment costs with ORM Fertility using our cost estimator.
What is the success rate of IVF?
Does IVF work for infertility and can it help you get pregnant? Many factors influence the success rate of IVF including the reason for infertility, age, medical history, the condition of the egg and how it has been preserved, where you are having the procedure done, and others.
Ultimately, the rate that one egg retrieval cycle will eventually result in a live birth (based on data from the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology, or SART) is:
- 51% for people under 35
- 38.3% for people 35-37
- 25.1% for people 38-40
- 12.7% for people 41-42
- 4.1% for people 43 and over
While there’s no guarantee that IVF will result in a pregnancy or a healthy baby, there are things within your control that can increase the chance of success. This includes researching clinic success rates, optimizing your diet and lifestyle for fertility, understanding any underlying conditions, and opting in for treatments such as ICSI and PGT when recommended.
Meet With a Fertility Specialist
IVF is the most successful fertility treatment available and may be a good option for those struggling to conceive on their own or those looking to conceive with the help of a donor. Meeting with a fertility specialist to review your unique situation can help determine your treatment plan and if IVF is a good option for you.