What is IVF?

The first IVF baby

In England 1978 a baby was born. Louise Brown was an ordinary baby girl like all the others with the one exception of the fact that she was the first baby ever to be conceived outside the womb of a mother. Louise Brown was the first baby of IVF.
IVF was developed to treat women which fallopian tubes were damaged and it is still one of the main reasons IVF is being performed today. It is a procedure of combining eggs and sperm outside the woman’s womb in a laboratory – (this is the main difference between IVF and artificial insemination in which the sperm is transferred directly to the uterus and nature does the rest.)
Later when the embryo or embryos form they are transferred to the uterus. It may sound simple but 30 years ago it really was a complicated and expensive treatment, nowadays it is more of a standard procedure.
Since 1981 IVF and similar procedures resulted in more than 5 million babies.

Clinician in a laboratoryHow does it work?

The treatment begins with hormone therapy which has the job of stimulating the development of several follicles in the ovary. Later several embryos are created by collecting the eggs (follicles) and fertilising them in a test-tube. The embryos are kept in an incubator for 2 to 5 days and then 1 or 2 of the embryos are transferred to the uterus through the vagina. Then the implantation in the uterus begins as well as the pregnancy. Of course like in a natural conception not every embryo that was implanted becomes a pregnancy. That is why all the additional embryos are being frozen which now is a standard procedure for most of the IVF clinics. In case the first implantation fails then the frozen embryo could be used for another try.

When can IVF help?

It should be clear that when dealing with infertility IVF is not the first step in this struggle. There are things that should be done first in order to know if IVF is really needed. If the fertility drugs, artificial insemination and surgery did not work this is the right time you should try IVF.
So in which cases could IVF help?

  • If your partner has low sperm counts
  • If you have the endometriosis disease (50% of the diseased are infertile)
  • If you have problems with fallopian tubes, uterus or with ovulation
  • In case of antibodies that attack sperm or eggs
  • If your partner’s sperm is not capable of penetrating or surviving in the cervical mucus
  • In case of other unexplained infertility problems

Multiple pregnancy

One of the most common side effects attributed to IVF treatments is the multiple pregnancy. Transferring two or more embryos could cause a multiple pregnancy. However some people would prefer to have two kids right away most of them want just one child and that is why Single Embryo Transfer is more popular. The rest of the embryos can be frozen so they can be used if the first transfer is not a successful pregnancy.

IVF success rates

The success rate of IVF declines gradually after the women reaches the age of 35.

  • Before the age of 35 the pregnancy rate is about 46% and live birth rate about 40%
  • At the age of 35-37 this rate is lowered to 37% pregnancy rate and 31% live birth rate.
  • 38-40 years old these rates are 29% and 22%
  • 41-42 years old 19% and 11%
  • and after 42 it is 8% and 3,9%
Endometriosis and IVF treatment with Dr. Harry Karpouzis.
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