In-Vitro Fertilization

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 six 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. Development of the uterus to support implantation
  5. Transfer of one or more embryos back into the uterus
  6. 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, a trigger medication will be administered to prepare the ovary for retrieval.

Approximately 36 hours after the trigger injection, an anesthesiologist will provide you anesthesia and Dr. Singleton will harvest eggs from your ovaries with a needle guided by ultrasound.  The embryologist will then place the eggs 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 or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) will be performed by placing one sperm within each egg.

Embryo development is observed for five days and any embryos that continue to grow to this point are frozen for future transfer.  You will recover from the egg retrieval cycle and then prepare for the cryopreserved embryo transfer cycle (CPET).  The transfer cycle uses hormones to develop the lining of the uterus for optimal implantation.  When the lining is determined to be optimal based on ultrasound and labwork the best embryo(s) will be thawed and transferred into the uterus.  You will take hormones to support implantation and a pregnancy test is then performed approximately 10 days later.

IVF bypasses the fallopian tubes and accordingly patients with damaged or absent fallopian tubes are often candidates for IVF.  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 preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) for patients needing a more comprehensive genetic analysis.