Starting with IVF Treatment? Beginner’s Guide on what it is and what to expect
With increasingly stressful lifestyle, infertility has become one of the harsh realities of our times. Many young couples today are struggling with their plans of becoming pregnant and starting a family. In those harsh clouds of uncertainty, IVF or In-vitro Fertilization is a word that shines hope. But what is IVF, when to begin, how to begin, what to expect from an IVF Treatment?
There is enough information available on the IVF Treatment on the internet. But it is all cluttered and fragmented. So if you are in dilemma and thinking about beginning with the IVF Treatment, here is a small beginner’s guide on the process, explained in simple words.
IVF Treatment: What it is
Let us start with the very basic – what is IVF Treatment. IVF, as the name suggests, is in-vitro fertilization. It is also referred to as a test tube baby.
For normal pregnancy, the sperm or the male gamete must ‘fertilize’ the egg cell or the female gamete in the woman’s body. The process of sperm fusing with the egg cell is called fertilization.
In-vitro is a scientific term which translates to outside the body. Any process conducted outside a living organism outside the body in a laboratory is referred to as in-vitro.
Hence, in-vitro fertilization is simply fertilization that happens in the laboratory.
IVF Treatment Process
The next thing that you need to understand is the process. IVF involves extraction of egg from the female body and collecting sperms from the male donor. The eggs and sperms are then fused together to form what is called an embryo. This embryo is them implanted in the uterus which then develops into a baby.
Sounds simple? It is not.
To understand the process of IVF, you need to know about the basics about pregnancy.
A woman’s reproductive system comprises simply of ovaries (there are two of them), fallopian tubes and the uterus which in turn has a cervix and vagina. Ovaries, normally produce one egg a month, alternatively. Or, say in January left ovary released an egg, in February the right ovary would release an egg and so on. Also, this is done during a specific time of your monthly cycle – called as the ovulation phase.
Males, on the other hand, have testes which produce the sperm. On an average about 8 million sperms are produced by a human male a day.
In order to get pregnant, the sperm must fertilize the egg. The biggest challenge is that the egg usually remains viable for a period of about 24 to 48 hours after it is released. A sperm, on the other hand has a lifespan of about 24 hours.
When does the IVF Treatment begin?
If you are planning to start on the IVF treatment, the first step would include a series of blood tests – for both you and your spouse/ partner. The ‘quality’ of eggs, sperms, the overall reproductive health of the females is also assessed before a course of treatment is suggested.
Also, usually the tests are done across the different phases of the woman’s cycle to better understand the ovulation perios as well as the ovarian reserve or the number of eggs in the ovary. (Every woman is born with a set of follicular cells that later develop into mature eggs during her reproductive cycle).
Once the timeline is understood, the doctor would start you on hormonal pills to regulate your cycle and prepare you. During this time, sample of semen is collected and stored for future use as well.
Beginning the IVF Treatment: What is done
Usually the treatment begins from Day 2 of your period for a total of about 9 days. This injection is given to stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs. Remember, normally only one egg would be released. In order to increase chances of success, the stimulation is done so as to get multiple viable eggs.
Depending on how the body responds, the doctor then decides to retrieve eggs. This process is done usually under anaesthesia and does not take much time. No cuts or stiches are required for the same.
These eggs collected, usually 5 – 8, are then fertilised with sperm using the intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI process. Once the fertilization takes place, an embryo is formed.
This embryo can be either placed directly into the female’s uterus or frozen for later use – depending on the condition of the woman, as decided by the practitioner.
The treatment, however, does not end there. Once the embryo is transplanted, the mother is given hormonal injections (progesterone) to keep the pregnancy viable and support.
Remember, every embryo injected may not attach to the uterine wall. Till that does not happen, it is not a pregnancy. Your doctor would continue to monitor your progress. If pregnancy is a success, it is monitored till fruition. If it fails, the entire process begins anew.
What you need to be prepared for
IVF Treatment has shown tremendous growth over the past few years with increasing success rates. However, what you need to understand is that IVF would not be simple.
As easy as it might sound, the procedure is both physically, mentally and economically exhausting. It requires support, guidance and patience.
Each body presents its unique challenges and doctors have to navigate. For some the process might take one or two tries, for few IVF might take multiple tries before success.