In Vitro Fertilization is a procedure in which the sperm and egg (oocyte) are placed together in the laboratory to allow the egg to be fertilized. In Vitro Fertilization is useful for patients that have not succeeded with prior fertility treatments, have low ovarian function or few remaining eggs (oocytes), blocked fallopian tubes, male factor infertility, desire genetic testing of their embryos or would like to postpone getting pregnant.
Prior to fertilization the female partner is given oral contraceptive for 2-3 weeks and then started on injectable medication for 8-12 days to stimulate the ovaries and allow the eggs (oocytes) to mature. The progress of the stimulation is followed and assessed with ultrasounds and hormone levels. Once enough eggs have matured the patient is scheduled to have her eggs removed under ultrasound guidance (IVF Retrieval) in the office. The eggs and sperm are then combined in the laboratory and the eggs are fertilized. In cases where there is no male partner or he is unable to make healthy sperm, a sperm donor can be used. If it is believed that the sperm cannot fertilize the egg as in unexplained infertility, the sperm are injected into the egg in a process called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). ICSI increases the total percentage of eggs that are fertilized. The fertilized eggs (embryos) are then placed in the uterus (Embryo Transfer) 3 or 5 days after fertilization, or are frozen (cryopreserved) for transfer typically in the following 1-2 months. The decision to freeze (cryopreserve) embryos is determined by your reproductive plan and can be influenced by hormone levels or findings during stimulation, the desire for genetic testing (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or PGD) of the embryos or the desire to become pregnant on a later date. Once the patient becomes pregnant after In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) she continues to receive medications to support the pregnancy for 6 to 7 weeks and several ultrasounds to confirm the health and due date of her pregnancy.