In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is a method of infertility treatment in which the sperm and the egg (oocyte) are combined outside the body for fertilization to occur. A doctor then transfers the resulting embryo(s) to the uterus to develop naturally.
The IVF cycle includes five basic phases:
1. Development of ovarian follicles and thus, the maturation of eggs
2. Ultrasound guided, transvaginal harvesting of the eggs
3. Fertilization and development of the fertilized eggs (embryos)
4. Transfer of one or more embryos back into the uterus
5. Follow-up blood tests and obstetrical ultrasounds
In a normal menstrual cycle, just one egg each month develops and matures. The egg matures within a fluid filled structure on the ovary called a “follicle.” At the beginning of an in-vitro fertilization cycle, hormone medications are used to stimulate the ovaries so that multiple follicles will develop to create multiple eggs. Typically eggs reach optimum maturation after approximately 10 days of medication. Ultrasound monitoring and blood hormone levels determine the maturation of the eggs. When the eggs have reached maturity, another medication, human chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG), will be taken. Approximately 36 hours after the hCG injection, you are given anesthesia and Dr. Singleton will harvest your eggs from your ovaries with a needle guided by ultrasound.
After the eggs are removed from the ovary the embryologist will place them in fluid media designed to mimic the conditions of the fallopian tube (where fertilization typically takes place). The semen specimen will be prepared to isolate the best sperm for insemination, then placed with the eggs and incubated overnight in precise temperatures to mimic the conditions in the human body.
Embryo development is then observed and at the appropriate stage of development (normally 3 to 5 days), the embryo(s) are placed into the uterus through a small catheter placed through the cervix and guided by ultrasound. A pregnancy test is then performed approximately 10 days later.
IVF bypasses the fallopian tubes and accordingly patients with damaged or absent fallopian tubes can become pregnant. This technique has also been instrumental in helping patients with endometriosis, severe male factor infertility, and many other disorders to become pregnant.
The Fertility Center of Charleston offers a variety of modifications to the standard IVF process to help patients with specific disorders. We offer intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) for couples with male factor infertility, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for couples with genetic disorders and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) for patients needing a more comprehensive genetic analysis.
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