In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a beneficial treatment for couples struggling with infertility. The IVF process is both a medical and surgical treatment. The woman is given high doses of hormones, which make her ovaries produce many eggs. The eggs are retrieved and combined with the partner’s sperm, which allows fertilization to occur outside the woman’s body. After embryos develop, they are placed inside the woman’s uterus.
Benefits of IVF
Overcome unexplained infertility – The main benefit of IVF is that it allows couples to achieve pregnancy and overcome the various causes of infertility. When no reasons is found for the infertility, it is called unexplained infertility. IVF allows these couples to achieve higher success rates at conception.
Help treat women with tubal disease – When a woman has extensively damaged fallopian tubes due to previous infections or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), IVF allows for bypassing the tubes. The eggs are retrieved from the body, so they do not need to pass down a damaged fallopian tube.
Useful for chemotherapy patients – Women treated for cancer often undergo chemotherapy treatments, which destroys or damages the eggs. Before the treatments begin, a woman can have her eggs retrieved and frozen, which allows for IVF in the future.
An option for men with low sperm counts – Some men have defective sperm or a low sperm count, which makes pregnancy difficult. IVF allows the sperm to be placed directly near the egg. In addition, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can be used, where the sperm are injected into the egg.
Allows older aged women to get pregnant – Women of advanced age have decreased chances of achieving pregnancy. Through IVF, donor eggs from a younger woman can be used to replace low quality or poor quality eggs.
Has high success rates – Compared to other ART procedures, IVF has the highest success rates. In addition, the IVF cycle can be repeated when the first one does not work.
Risks of IVF
As with all assisted reproductive technologies (ART), there are some risks and side effects to IVF. These include:
Fertility medication side effects – Some of these drugs can produce unwanted side effects, such as bloating, headaches, irritability, hot flashes, breast tenderness, and mild cramping.
Infection – While rare, infection is a risk of IVF. Be sure to notify the doctor if you experience a temperature of 100.5 °F (38 °C) or higher, pelvic pain, or colored vaginal discharge.
Multiple pregnancies – When more than one embryo is transferred to the uterus during IVF, there is an increased chance of multiple pregnancies. Having multiples puts the babies at risk for low birth weight and complications.
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) – This causes nausea, vomiting, decreased urinary output, abdominal pain, pelvic pressure, and rapid weight gain.
Ectopic pregnancy – There is a slightly higher risk of ectopic pregnancy with IVF compared to natural conception. This is where the embryo implants into a fallopian tube rather than the uterus. Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include vaginal bleeding, dark vaginal discharge, and pelvic pain.
Anesthesia reaction – Because anesthesia may be required during the IVF procedures, patients may have a reaction to the medication. While this rarely occurs, anesthesia can cause serious respiratory depression, anaphylactic reaction, or even death.