The Latin term in vitro, meaning "in glass", is used because early biological experiments involving cultivation of tissues outside the living organism were carried out in glass containers, such as beakers, test tubes, or Petri dishes. Today, the scientific term "in vitro" is used to refer to any biological procedure that is performed outside the organism in which it would normally have occurred, to distinguish it from an in vivo procedure (such as in vivo fertilisation), where the tissue remains inside the living organism in which it is normally found.
Dr. Gorka Barrenetxea provides us with a practical case of secondary infertility that occurs more commonly than one may think. A couple, throughout their lifetime, can have children with 20, 25, 30 and 35 years, but when they decide to have a second or third child, they may encounter trouble conceiving due to the passage of time itself, Dr. Barrenetxea states.
Costs of IVF can be broken down into direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include the medical treatments themselves, including doctor consultations, medications, ultrasound scanning, laboratory tests, the actual IVF procedure, and any associated hospital charges and administrative costs. Indirect costs includes the cost of addressing any complications with treatments, patients' travel costs and lost hours of productivity. These costs can be exaggerated by the increasing age of the woman undergoing IVF treatment (particularly those over the age of 40), and the increase costs associated with multiple births. For instance, a pregnancy with twins can cost up to three times that of a singleton pregnancy.
In IVF, a woman is given more medications to develop lots of eggs. Ideally, they develop around 15 mature eggs. The eggs are removed from the ovaries, fertilized and developed in a lab for a number of days, and subsequently put back into the uterus as an early-stage embryo. While this may sound like a relatively minor difference, it leads to leads to a large number of noteworthy differences.
Many people have never heard the term "secondary infertility"; fewer understand it. I discovered it a year into my struggle to conceive a second child and fell on it, amazed. What I was undergoing had a name! I wrote it down and immediately felt better, as if the phrase exuded a talismanic power that might protect me from the likes of my neighbour.
Problems with your periods or menstrual cycle is a sign of ovulation problems – and if you aren’t ovulating, you won’t get pregnant. Menstrual problems are the most obvious sign of infertility in women – but they don’t necessarily mean you’re infertile. Most women have some type of problem with their period: light flow, heavy flow, clotting, irregularity caused by stress or weight fluctuations, hormonal changes, etc.
Because not each IVF cycle that is started will lead to oocyte retrieval or embryo transfer, reports of live birth rates need to specify the denominator, namely IVF cycles started, IVF retrievals, or embryo transfers. The SART summarised 2008–9 success rates for US clinics for fresh embryo cycles that did not involve donor eggs and gave live birth rates by the age of the prospective mother, with a peak at 41.3% per cycle started and 47.3% per embryo transfer for patients under 35 years of age.
The number to be transferred depends on the number available, the age of the woman and other health and diagnostic factors. In countries such as Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, a maximum of two embryos are transferred except in unusual circumstances. In the UK and according to HFEA regulations, a woman over 40 may have up to three embryos transferred, whereas in the US, there is no legal limit on the number of embryos which may be transferred, although medical associations have provided practice guidelines. Most clinics and country regulatory bodies seek to minimise the risk of multiple pregnancy, as it is not uncommon for multiple embryos to implant if multiple embryos are transferred. Embryos are transferred to the patient's uterus through a thin, plastic catheter, which goes through her vagina and cervix. Several embryos may be passed into the uterus to improve chances of implantation and pregnancy.
Sunni Muslim nations generally allow IVF between married couples when conducted with their own respective sperm and eggs, but not with donor eggs from other couples. But Iran, which is Shi'a Muslim, has a more complex scheme. Iran bans sperm donation but allows donation of both fertilised and unfertilised eggs. Fertilised eggs are donated from married couples to other married couples, while unfertilised eggs are donated in the context of mut'ah or temporary marriage to the father.
Our specialized team of andrologists prepare each sperm sample with a procedure commonly known as "sperm washing" in one of our andrology laboratories. Sperm washing involves placing the sperm sample in a test tube and then a centrifuge, which results in the sperm collecting in a "pellet" at the bottom of the test tube. The andrologist removes the seminal fluid and places the fluid (media) above the sperm. The most active sperm will then swim up into the media. The final sample consists of the most active sperm concentrated in a small volume of media. A single IUI is usually performed when a patient is using fresh sperm. If a patient is using a frozen sperm sample, the clinician can likely perform one or two IUIs.
Gonadotropins are another drug used to trigger ovulation. Gonadotropins are used if other drugs are not successful or if many eggs are needed for infertility treatments. Gonadotropins are given in a series of shots early in the menstrual cycle. Blood tests and ultrasound exams are used to track the development of the follicles. When test results show that the follicles have reached a certain size, another drug may be given to signal a follicle to release its matured egg.
Intrauterine insemination is less successful if the cause of infertility involves decreased egg quality, diseased Fallopian tubes, or endometriosis. IUI treatment cannot improve the quality of the eggs within the ovaries or repair damaged anatomical structure. As with advanced age, it may be advisable to move to IVF earlier in the treatment timeline with these diagnoses.
For couples who have no difficulty achieving a pregnancy, the natural chance of pregnancy per month of ovulation is largely dependent on the age of the woman. For women in their early 30s or younger, the natural pregnancy rate is about 20 to 25 percent per cycle. This drops off significantly through her mid-to late-30s; by her early 40s, the chance of pregnancy is about 5 percent per cycle. This age-related decrease is primarily due to a decline in the quality of the eggs within the ovaries.
With the exception of severe male infertility, 70% of the oocytes will become fertilized. In the case of severe male infertility, ICSI (pronounced ick-see) may be used to fertilize the eggs, instead of simply placing them in a culture dish. With ICSI, the embryologist will choose a healthy-looking sperm and inseminate the oocyte with the sperm using a special thin needle.
In the natural process of conception without treatment, a woman’s ovaries produce a mature egg each month, which leaves the ovary and travels along the fallopian tube towards the uterus. Sperm that has been deposited in the vagina through intercourse travels through the cervix through the uterus and up the fallopian tube toward the egg. Millions of sperm are lost in the cervix and do not travel to the fallopian tube. When the two meet, they join to form the early stage of an embryo which then travels down the fallopian tube into the uterus. If all goes well, it will implant in the lining of the womb and pregnancy begins.
Mild IVF is a method where a small dose of ovarian stimulating drugs are used for a short duration during a woman's natural cycle aimed at producing 2–7 eggs and creating healthy embryos. This method appears to be an advance in the field to reduce complications and side-effects for women and it is aimed at quality, and not quantity of eggs and embryos. One study comparing a mild treatment (mild ovarian stimulation with GnRH antagonist co-treatment combined with single embryo transfer) to a standard treatment (stimulation with a GnRH agonist long-protocol and transfer of two embryos) came to the result that the proportions of cumulative pregnancies that resulted in term live birth after 1 year were 43.4% with mild treatment and 44.7% with standard treatment. Mild IVF can be cheaper than conventional IVF and with a significantly reduced risk of multiple gestation and OHSS.
Clomiphene citrate (Clomid, Serophene) is a medication commonly used for the treatment of women with ovulation disorders as reflected by infrequent or irregular menstrual cycles. Clomid is a pill taken orally for 5 to 7 days, typically on day 3 of a woman’s menstrual cycle to induce ovulation. Clomid works at the level of the brain and pituitary gland and facilitates the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). FSH and LH, in turn, stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs and the ovarian hormones estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4). The initial prescribed dosage of clomid is 50 to 100 mg (one or two tablets) daily at bedtime, or as prescribed by your physician.
In order for pregnancy to happen, sperm has to meet the egg. This normally takes place at the end of the fallopian tube, and this is called fertilization. There are a number of obstacles that can prevent this from happening, and the process itself even in healthy young fertile women is very complex- hence the low pregnancy rate each month. Obstacles such as cycle timing, low sperm count, poor sperm motility, blocked fallopian tubes, or endometriosis must be overcome to achieve a pregnancy. Timing is often the most common obstacle to conception. What does it mean for you when common causes of infertility are ruled out and you’re told you have unexplained infertility? It should mean a time of hope.