What is in vitro fertilization or IVF?
IVF involves stimulating multiple follicles and eggs to develop in the
ovaries, then taking eggs out of the woman, fertilizing them in the laboratory
with her partner's sperm and transferring embryos back to her uterus.
The first IVF baby in the world (Louise Brown) was born in July of 1978 in
England. Louise Brown was 28 when she delivered her own baby in 2006. Her baby
was conceived without IVF. Hundreds of thousands of children are now born
annually as a result of the IVF technique.
Who should be treated with in vitro fertilization (IVF)?
In vitro fertilization can be used as an effective treatment for infertility of
all causes except for women with infertility caused by an anatomic problem with
the uterus, such as severe intrauterine adhesions.
It is generally used in couples who have failed to conceive after at least one
year of trying who also have one or more of the following:
1.Blocked fallopian tubes or pelvic adhesions with distorted pelvic anatomy.
Women that have had tubal ligation and are considering tubal reversal surgery as
well as men that are considering vasectomy reversal surgery might also consider
2.Male factor infertility (low sperm count or low motility). ICSI is an IVF
procedure that can fertilize eggs even with poor sperm quality.
3.Failed 2-4 cycles of ovarian stimulation with intrauterine insemination
4.Advanced female age - over about 38 years of age. In vitro fertilization and
advanced maternal age is discussed in detail on the female age page.
5.PCOD & females with reduced ovarian reserve, which means lower quantity (and sometimes quantity)
of eggs. A day 3 FSH and estradiol test, antral follicle counts and AMH hormone
levels are often done as screening tests for egg quantity. Reduced egg quantity
and quality is usually treated with either IVF, or with IVF with egg donation.
7.Unexplained infertility when inseminations have failed. Unexplained
infertility means standard fertility tests have not found the cause of the
How does IVF improve fertility?
In vitro fertilization increases the efficiency of human reproduction, which is
often not very efficient naturally. Essentially, we are involved in a numbers
game that worsens as the female partner ages. IVF takes multiple eggs and after
careful culture for 3-5 days of those eggs that fertilize, we transfer one or
more of the "prettiest" embryos back to the uterus. Any remaining (if there are
any) can be frozen for future use by the couple.
In a sense, we are compressing many months of "natural" attempts into one
menstrual cycle. By transferring the fertilized embryo(s) directly to the
uterine cavity, fertility is improved for many couples that have sperm issues
(fertilization defects), or issues on the female side related to egg pickup from
the ovary or tubal transport of the embryo to the uterus. Therefore, with IVF:
1.We force the body to produce multiple follicles and eggs (only one follicle
with one egg inside develops in a natural menstrual cycle)
2.We take the eggs out of the ovaries when they're ready (release and tubal
pickup of the egg can be inefficient naturally)
3.We coerce fertilization in the lab (sperm or egg issues can cause
fertilization problems in a natural situation)
4.We culture the embryos and then pick the best one (or more)
for transfer to the female (selection of the best one(s) increases the chance of
5.We transfer the embryo(s) to the best location in the middle of the uterine
cavity (tubal transport of the embryo to the uterus is bypassed)