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 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 occurs in the woman’s fallopian tube, a tube-like organ that joins an ovary to the uterus.
Suppose the fertilized egg (now called an embryo) successfully travels down the fallopian tube and implants in the uterus. In that case, an embryo starts growing on the endometrial wall in the uterus. When this normal process of fertilization does not occur in couples 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 sperm and eggs are kept near 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 woman's uterus (called fresh embryo transfer) or frozen for the future (frozen embryo transfer). One complete 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 eggs and the male partner’s sperms or 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. Over the last few decades, millions of couples worldwide have benefitted from IVF. These IVF babies lead a healthy and everyday life like any NORMALLY CONCEIVED CHILD. Couples aspiring to have a baby of their own need not have to lose hope. They have to visit a good IVF centre and get the right advice.
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