In vitro fertilization (IVF): Here's what it means to give birth artificially

When couples have unprotected sex while trying to get pregnant for at least a year with no success, then there might be a case of infertility.

IVF procedure

Research has shown that infertility results from female factors about one-third of the time and both female and male factors about one-third of the time. The cause is either unknown or a combination of male and female factors in the remaining cases.

One famed option couples trying to give birth may go for is in vitro fertilization (IVF). It is a common and effective form of fertility treatment, or assisted reproductive technology (ART). Let's read on to know how this process works:

  • What is IVF?

In vitro fertilization is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that can help people who can’t conceive naturally to have a baby.


This, in some cases, is performed using a couple’s own eggs, and sperm, and implanting the embryo into the woman’s uterus. Also, “donors” provide either the eggs or the sperm, or a gestational carrier (known as a surrogate) may carry the fertilized egg to maturity.

While it does help some people conceive, IVF is not appropriate for all couples experiencing fertility problems. For example, women with fibroids or polyps may not be good candidates for the procedure.

How does IVF work?

Health practitioners explain IVF as a multi-step procedure which can also be termed a “cycle”.

First, healthcare providers try to figure out why a couple is struggling with fertility. When the problem is known and the IVF procedure is determined to be appropriate, the health practitioner then takes the woman through three different steps which will help her conceive and have a baby or babies.

  • Step 1: The ovarian stimulation treatment

The first step usually begins at a specific stage of a woman’s menstrual cycle—usually about two weeks before they ovulate.

Research has shown that ovarian stimulation encourages a woman’s ovaries to produce multiple healthy and mature eggs (oocytes). Naturally, a woman only produces one healthy oocyte during ovulation but with IVF, more is needed to ensure that a healthy and fertilizable egg is available for later implantation in the uterus.

After, the health expert performs a process called stimulation (a form of injected hormone medications or other fertility drugs). This stimulation is to ensure that roughly 10 to 20 mature eggs are available for retrieval during the next stage of the IVF process.

  • Step 2: Egg retrieval

Here, there is an extraction (retrieval) of the mature oocytes from a woman’s ovaries. This procedure requires sedation or anaesthesia.

The procedure also known as transvaginal oocyte retrieval or oocyte pick up, an ultrasound device is inserted into the vagina. This helps the healthcare professional to see into the ovaries. Using a specialized needle attached to this ultrasound device, the expert pushes the needle through the vaginal wall and extracts the follicular fluid and egg from the ovaries.

  • Step 3: Egg fertilization

Sperm from a partner or donor is used to fertilize the mature and healthy eggs. This happens in an incubator that provides an environment similar to the one inside the body for 12-18 hours—a time frame usually enough for one sperm to penetrate and fertilize the egg.

If the sperms are, however, not healthy (if they can’t move), the health practitioners may perform procured called intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI. Here, a single sperm is directly injected into the oocyte which bypasses the need for the sperm to penetrate the egg by itself.

  • Step 4: Embryo transfer

After 3-5 days after the eggs have been fertilized, the doctor is likely to transfer one or more healthy fertilized eggs into the uterus.

Depending on a woman’s age, the number of embryos differs . More embryos implanted increases the odds of live birth, although it also raises the odds of multiple gestations (having twins, triplets, etc.).

IVF success rates

Predicting how successful someone’s IVF procedure will be is quite difficult. Research has shown that IVF success rates depend on several factors which include how many eggs are transferred, and also, the age of the person carrying the embryo.


For example, women below age 35 who use their own eggs, about half of embryo transfers result in a live birth. For women 43 and older, the rate was 12%. But again, this rate is different from person to person, CDC research has shown.

IVF risks and side-effects

An Alteri 2019 research revealed that the IVF procedure presents some risks. The research found that between 3–6% of women who undergo stimulation develop mild or moderate ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS can cause swelling of the reproductive organs, as well as bleeding, pain, and other symptoms. Meanwhile, between 1–3% of women may develop severe or critical OHSS, which can lead to organ damage. Fortunately, OHSS is usually detected early, which lowers the odds of a severe case.

While many may not consider this a drawback, the chance of having twins is higher among people who undergo IVF. Approximately 35% of infants conceived with the help of assisted reproductive technology are twins.

"This transfer is usually coupled with medications that encourage successful implantation and pregnancy. Meanwhile, any healthy embryos that weren’t implanted are typically frozen so that they can be used later if needed," it said.


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