What is IVF? And how does it work?
IVF or In Vitro Fertilization is one of the more widely known types of Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART).
IVF works by using a combination of medicines and surgical procedures, to help the sperm fertilize an egg. Here the eggs are fertilized outside the human body and implanted in the uterus. These procedures can be used to help couples struggling with infertility and also in the prevention of genetic problems. A pregnancy starts with fertilization – when a woman’s egg joins with a man’s sperm. Fertilization usually takes place in the fallopian tube within the woman, which is a tube-like organ that joins an ovary to the uterus.
If the fertilized egg ( which is now called an embryo)successfully travels down the fallopian tube and implants in the uterus, an embryo starts growing on the endometrial wall, in the uterus When this normal process of fertilization does not take place in couples who are planning to have a baby, advanced techniques of Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART)are utilized to increase the chances of conceiving a healthy baby.
In an IVF cycle, eggs are retrieved from the ovaries, and sperms are collected from the ejaculate (or surgically retrieved from the husband’s testes if ejaculation is not possible or if ejaculate has no viable sperms). These sperms are then allowed to fertilize the egg outside the body, in the laboratory.
This fertilization can happen if the sperms and eggs are kept in close proximity to each other (called conventional IVF) or are forced by pushing the sperm into the egg (through a process called ICSI). The fertilized eggs are then cultured and ‘grown’ in the lab in conditions that mimic the woman’s uterus. The fertilized egg gets all nourishment from the culture media that it is kept in.
An embryologist monitors the growth of the embryo. When the embryo has grown sufficiently, it is either transferred into the uterus of the woman (called fresh embryo transfer) or is frozen for a future transfer (called frozen embryo transfer). One full IVF cycle takes about three weeks but sometimes the procedure is split into parts, to manage certain challenges in the couples. This may delay the process. IVF can be done using the woman’s own eggs and the male partner’s sperms or it may involve sperms, eggs, or embryos from anonymous donors.
Sometimes a gestational carrier (a woman who has an embryo implanted in her uterus) might be used. Such a carrier is called a surrogate mother and the process is called surrogacy.
IVF or test tube baby is a blessing to every couple who cannot conceive. Millions of couples worldwide have benefitted from IVF, over the last few decades. These IVF babies are leading a healthy and normal life, like any other normally conceived child. Couples aspiring to have a baby of their own need not have to lose hope. They just have to visit a good IVF center and get the right advice.
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