What Is In Vitro Fertilization?

A smiling pregnant woman lying on a bed

Many patients who are exploring infertility treatments will wonder, "What is in vitro fertilization (IVF)?" At the Fertility Center of San Antonio, TX, we want to help you learn about IVF so you can understand what to expect during treatment. Our skilled doctors have extensive experience using IVF to help patients achieve their dreams of starting a family. To learn more about what IVF treatment involves, contact our office today.

The Basics of IVF

The term "in vitro" literally means “in glass.” IVF involves fertilizing a woman's egg in a laboratory and transferring the fertilized egg to the uterus of the patient or surrogate. By conducting fertilization in a controlled setting, we can better regulate reproductive processes and help to ensure a safe and successful pregnancy. We can determine if this treatment is right for you by conducting a fertility evaluation at our office.

How IVF Works

IVF treatment is a multi-step process that includes four primary phases:

  1. Ovulation induction: To begin IVF treatment, the patient is given fertility medications to stimulate the development and release of eggs. 
  2. Egg retrieval: During this procedure, the doctor will use an ultrasound-guided needle to retrieve healthy eggs from the ovaries. To prepare the eggs for incubation and fertilization, ideal samples are identified through a process known as oocyte selection. To prepare semen, we will remove inactive cells and seminal fluid through a process known as sperm washing.
  3. Fertilization: To induce fertilization, both the sperm and eggs will be placed into a special medium and left to incubate for up to 48 hours. The sperm-to-egg ratio can be as high as 75,000:1 in order to help ensure successful fertilization. If no eggs are fertilized during the incubation period, then direct injection of a single sperm into an egg (ICSI) may be recommended. After the eggs have been fertilized, they will be left to develop, or culture.
  4. Embryo transfer: Once the eggs have been fertilized and allowed to culture into embryos, they will be transferred to the uterus. When the embryos are allowed to culture for two to three days, we can transfer them to the uterus during the cleavage stage. Conversely, by allowing the embryo to culture for five to six days, we can transfer them during the blastocyst stage. Completing uterus transfer during the blastocyst stage usually results in a better chance of live birth. However, it also limits the number of total embryos that can be transferred. We can determine which stage to perform transfer during your initial consultation. During embryo transfer, we will use a special catheter to carefully deposit healthy embryos into the uterine cavity.

We can explain each of these steps in greater detail during an appointment. After IVF, you will return to our office and undergo a pregnancy test to determine if treatment was successful.

Schedule a Consultation

IVF treatment has helped numerous families realize their goal of having children. If you are unable to conceive, and you are seeking to learn more about IVF treatment, contact our office today to schedule an appointment.

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