Theoretically, IVF could be performed by collecting the contents from a woman's fallopian tubes or uterus after natural ovulation, mixing it with sperm, and reinserting the fertilised ova into the uterus. However, without additional techniques, the chances of pregnancy would be extremely small. The additional techniques that are routinely used in IVF include ovarian hyperstimulation to generate multiple eggs, ultrasound-guided transvaginal oocyte retrieval directly from the ovaries, co-incubation of eggs and sperm, as well as culture and selection of resultant embryos before embryo transfer into a uterus.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

Undergo minor surgery to retrieve eggs. Following a round of injections, your doctor will determine the best date to retrieve eggs from the follicles of your ovaries. If you choose to use donor eggs, the retrieval process will occur with the donor, or the frozen eggs may be collected and used. A partner’s sperm or donor sperm will also be collected.


Most parents have a mental image of their ideal family, and if they find themselves unable to make that happen, it can be devastating. Infertility is heartbreaking and stressful, whether you have a child or not. In fact, being a parent adds a layer of complexity. For one thing, parents are immersed in the world of kids, so it's impossible to avoid all the babies and pregnant bellies that remind you of what you're missing. Plus, "parents with secondary infertility don't often get much sympathy, so they end up feeling as though they don't have a right to be sad," says Marie Davidson, Ph.D., a psychologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois. In fact, they're often told to appreciate the child they have (as if they don't). Finally, many parents feel guilt on two fronts: for not giving their child a sibling and for directing some of their focus and resources away from that child.

Luteal phase abnormalities: The luteal phase is the part of the cycle that follows the release of the egg from the ovary. It may be inadequate in one way and this is called a luteal phase defect. The corpus luteum produces the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is essential for preparing the endometrium to receive the fertilized egg. Several things can go wrong with progesterone production: the rise in output can be too slow, the level can be too low, or the length of time over which it is produced can be too short. Another possibility is a defective endometrium that does not respond properly to the progesterone. Luteal phase defects can be investigated either by a properly timed endometrial biopsy or by monitoring the progesterone output by taking a number of blood samples on different days after ovulation and measuring the progesterone level. 


At the same time, in older women, the IVF success rates can vary dramatically, and that’s why it’s so important to focus only on live births. For example, a clinic may have a very high pregnancy rate among older women, but a low live birth rate. Or, the rates may be quite high – 40% or even 50% – but only after four or five rounds. That makes a very big difference, especially in the overall cost of treatment!
I used to have a neighbour I would do almost anything to avoid. An elderly lady, she was given to jam-making, church-going and patrolling the local streets. If I saw her coming, I would dive back inside my front door or seize my son's hand and gallop to our car. I once twisted my ankle in an effort to escape her. Whenever she saw me she would utter the words, "If you don't get your skates on and give that child a brother or sister he's going to be a lonely only." Even now, it's hard to say what was more loathsome. Was it the boisterous intrusion of her tone, the inexcusability of the phrase "lonely only", or the idea of strapping on skates as a euphemism for – what exactly? Unprotected sex?
We don't know what causes most cases of secondary infertility, says Jamie Grifo, M.D., Ph.D., program director of the New York University Fertility Center, in New York City. "The majority of the time, though, it reflects the fact that you're older now, so it's simply more difficult to get pregnant." The reality is that for women, fertility peaks at age 25 and drops by half between ages 30 and 40. As we age, egg quality declines and we're more likely to develop fibroids and endometriosis, which contribute to infertility. Other factors such as adding extra weight, taking new meds, or having surgery since your last pregnancy can be an issue. It may also be that your partner's sperm quality or production is now poor.
For women, intake of antioxidants (such as N-acetyl-cysteine, melatonin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, myo-inositol, zinc or selenium) has not been associated with a significantly increased live birth rate or clinical pregnancy rate in IVF according to Cochrane reviews.[30] The review found that oral antioxidants given to men in couples with male factor or unexplained subfertility may improve live birth rates, but more evidence is needed.[30]
Repeated failed rounds of IVF can help identify causes of infertility. For example, if sperm and egg quality are normal, then the conception issue may be rooted at the embryonic or implantation level. In other words, if IVF fails to result in pregnancy despite successful fertilization, embryonic development or implantation may be to blame. Still this is a very expensive way to start getting answers.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

Studies show that sperm count and sperm movement decrease as men age, as does sexual function. But there isn't a cutoff age that makes a man too old to father a child. One study found that it took men age 45 or older longer to get a woman pregnant once the couple started trying. If your partner is older, you may want to talk to your doctor about ways to boost your chances.

As with any medical procedure, there are some risks to keep in mind. When choosing between IUI and IVF, the risk is certainly something to consider. The chances of experiencing either a miscarriage or multiples are concerns many have when deciding to undergo fertility treatments. So let’s take a look at the odds of either of these things occurring, plus a few other risks to be aware of.
A doctor or WHNP takes a medical history and gives a physical examination. They can also carry out some basic tests on both partners to see if there is an identifiable reason for not having achieved a pregnancy. If necessary, they refer patients to a fertility clinic or local hospital for more specialized tests. The results of these tests help determine the best fertility treatment.

As a result, most patients need to undergo multiple cycles, and as we pointed out in a another lesson, no cycle is as likely to succeed as the first one. Below is data out of the UK published in the Journal of The American Medical Association that illustrates that after a few cycles most younger patients succeed with IVF but that is not necessarily true for older patients.

The AMIGOS study suggested that clomid provided the best balance of a high pregnancy rate with a reasonably low multiple rate among couples with unexplained infertility. However, the authors of the Huang study concluded that on balance letrozole was better. From our vantage point, given that clomid more commonly causes multiple eggs to be ovulated, it seems like the slightly better option between the two because the whole point of treatment in unexplained infertility patients is to increase the odds of delivery by increasing the number of eggs ovulated.
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 United States, women seeking to be an embryo recipient undergo infectious disease screening required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and reproductive tests to determine the best placement location and cycle timing before the actual Embryo Transfer occurs. The amount of screening the embryo has already undergone is largely dependent on the genetic parents' own IVF clinic and process. The embryo recipient may elect to have her own embryologist conduct further testing.
That’s about the time frame women between the ages of 35 and 40 should give themselves, before discussing fertility concerns with their doctor. For women under 35, experts recommend trying for about a year—really trying, as in unprotected, well-timed intercourse—before having any testing or treatment; women over 40 may want to consult an obstetrician/gynecologist right away. See your doctor sooner than later if you’ve suffered multiple miscarriages, have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease (a serious complication of some STDs), or experience any other symptoms of infertility. Meanwhile, learn these infertility myths you don’t have to worry about.
By 2017, many centers have adopted embryo cryopreservation as their primary IVF therapy, and perform few or no fresh embryo transfers. The two main reasons for this have been better endometrial receptivity when embryos are transferred in cycles without exposure to ovarian stimulation and also the ability to store the embryos while awaiting the results of pre-implantation genetic testing.
Ovulation induction with IUI: The goal with ovulation induction is to recruit and develop a single egg during the stimulation phase. At the time of ovulation, insemination occurs, placing the sperm directly into the uterus. IUI puts the sperm closer to the egg than possible with intercourse alone. You will come into the office for three to five monitoring appointments to track egg development and cycle timing.

The best study in the field enrolled 750 women to receive clomid or letrozole, followed them for 5 courses of therapy and revealed that the group receiving letrozole had higher live birth rates and fewer multiple gestations. The data is of exceptional quality, and there’s no reason to believe the conclusion doesn’t also apply to the choice of drugs if these patients proceeded on to IUI.


Amenorrhea (including hypothalmic amenorrhea) is a condition in which there is an absence of menstrual periods in a woman. There are two types of amenorrhea: primary and secondary. Treatment of amenorrhea depends on the type. In primary, surgery may be an option and in secondary amenorrhea medication or lifestyle changes may be treatment options. We go over the definition of amenorrhea, causes, and treatment options for amenorrhea.

West states that the "hardest thing about secondary fertility issues is that you want a sibling for your child." Fiona, who has a son of five and has been trying to conceive a second child for two years, says she can no longer look out of the window at her son playing in the garden. "It breaks my heart. He just looks so alone out there. All I want is a sibling for him but I don't think it's going to happen."
Intrauterine insemination is the process whereby a clinician will place a concentrated specimen of sperm in your uterus. For this procedure, he or she will insert a speculum into your vagina in order to better visualize your cervix. He or she will then pass a soft, thin catheter through the cervix opening and into the uterus. The clinician will introduce the washed sperm into the uterus through this catheter. The procedure is done in our office and takes 1 to 2 minutes. It is not painful and does not require anesthesia. You can return to normal daily activities immediately after an IUI.
West states that the "hardest thing about secondary fertility issues is that you want a sibling for your child." Fiona, who has a son of five and has been trying to conceive a second child for two years, says she can no longer look out of the window at her son playing in the garden. "It breaks my heart. He just looks so alone out there. All I want is a sibling for him but I don't think it's going to happen."

Psychological factors: Studies on infertile groups of men and women have produced contradictory findings of the importance of psychological factors in causing infertility. Emotional disturbances undoubtedly appear to have some significance. This is only reasonable if you realize that the whole hormonal cycle, with its delicate adjustments, is controlled from the brain. This is an area which needs further investigation.
DNA damage reduces fertility in male sperm, as caused by oxidative DNA damage,[31] smoking,[28] other xenobiotic DNA damaging agents (such as drugs or chemotherapy)[32] or other DNA damaging agents including reactive oxygen species, fever or high testicular temperature.[33] The damaged DNA related to infertility manifests itself by the increased susceptibility to denaturation inducible by heat or acid [34] or by the presence of double-strand breaks that can be detected by the TUNEL assay.[35]

In cases where the man's sperm count is extremely low or there is poor motility (movement of the sperm), doctors may combine IVF with a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection. In this procedure, a sperm is taken from semen -- or in some cases right from the testicles -- and inserted directly into the egg. Once a viable embryo is produced, it is transferred to the uterus using the usual IVF procedure.
IVF: During IVF, medications are usually taken for around 10 days to grow a large number of eggs. Once many eggs have developed, a procedure takes place where the eggs are removed from the ovaries. The eggs are then fertilized outside of the body in a lab. After growing for a few days in the lab, an embryo is transferred back into the woman’s uterus. 
The industry has been accused of making unscientific claims, and distorting facts relating to infertility, in particular through widely exaggerated claims about how common infertility is in society, in an attempt to get as many couples as possible and as soon as possible to try treatments (rather than trying to conceive naturally for a longer time). This risks removing infertility from its social context and reducing the experience to a simple biological malfunction, which not only can be treated through bio-medical procedures, but should be treated by them.[104][105] Indeed, there are serious concerns about the overuse of treatments, for instance Dr Sami David, a fertility specialist, has expressed disappointment over the current state of the industry, and said many procedures are unnecessary; he said: "It's being the first choice of treatment rather than the last choice. When it was first opening up in late 1970s, early 80s, it was meant to be the last resort. Now it's a first resort. I think that it can harm women in the long run."[106] IVF thus raises ethical issues concerning the abuse of bio-medical facts to 'sell' corrective procedures and treatments for conditions that deviate from a constructed ideal of the 'healthy' or 'normal' body i.e., fertile females and males with reproductive systems capable of co-producing offspring.

With egg donation and IVF, women who are past their reproductive years, have infertile male partners, have idiopathic female-fertility issues, or have reached menopause can still become pregnant. After the IVF treatment, some couples get pregnant without any fertility treatments.[3] In 2018, it was estimated that eight million children had been born worldwide using IVF and other assisted reproduction techniques.[4] However, a recent study that explores 10 adjuncts with IVF (screening hysteroscopy, DHEA, testosterone, GH, aspirin, heparin, antioxidants in males and females, seminal plasma, and PRP) suggests that until more evidence is done to show that these adjuncts are safe and effective, they should be avoided.[5]


For most couples having difficulty achieving a pregnancy their chance of achieving a pregnancy is not zero, it is just lower than the average rate of conception—unless both Fallopian tubes are completely blocked, there is no sperm, or the woman never ovulates. Ovulation induction (or superovulation) with IUI helps patients to achieve pregnancy rates closer to the natural per cycle chance of pregnancy for women in their age group who do not have infertility (see fig 1).

Success rates for IVF depend on a number of factors, including the reason for infertility, where you're having the procedure done, and your age. The CDC compiles national statistics for all assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures performed in the U.S., including IVF, GIFT, and ZIFT, although IVF is by far the most common; it accounts for 99% of the procedures. The most recent report from 2016 found:


Many women spend much of their early adult lives trying not to get pregnant. But when you finally do want to start a family and it doesn’t happen right away, it can leave you feeling frustrated. Not to mention, trying to get pregnant month after month unsuccessfully can be emotionally taxing. You should know that you are not alone, and that unexplained infertility is exactly that– unexplained– so no finger pointing as to who is at fault!
We also care about not only your physical well being, but also your emotional health. In fact, these issues as important enough to us that one of our core team members is a psychologist. Julianne Zweifel is an expert in addressing the mental aspects of secondary (and primary) infertility and she can promote emotional well being in a way that few others have the training or experience to do. If you should feel you do not wish to talk a specialist, but are struggling emotionally, please at least let other team members know-the more we hear from you, the easier it is for us to help.  
Embryos are transferred to the uterus. Embryos that have developed from the fertilization process will be placed in the uterus, normally 3 to 5 days after retrieval, so that they can embed. If this process is successful, pregnancy will occur and IVF is considered a success. If it’s not, you may use a frozen embryo that you have saved from a previous round of IVF to try again.

Fertility expert Zita West has noticed this increase at her London clinic. "The main reason," she explains, "is age. Women are having babies later." Exhaustion also plays a part. "The sleeplessness of life with a small child can't be underestimated," she says. "You might still be breastfeeding, you might be sharing a bed with a toddler, you might be holding down a job at the same time. Basically, there's not a lot of sex happening."
Couples experiencing infertility have a range of treatment options. Women can take fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation, or undergo certain surgeries and procedures, like intrauterine insemination, which carefully places healthy sperm in the uterus right before an egg is released to increase the chances of fertilization. Men can also take fertility medication or undergo surgery to increase the chances of conception.

Problems with the uterus: There are many conditions related to the uterus that can cause secondary infertility. Scarring can occur during a dilation and curettage (D&C) or Cesarean delivery that can create adhesions inside the uterus that interfere with future pregnancies Fibroids or polyps are benign (non-cancer) growths inside the uterus that can impair pregnancy. A retained placenta can cause infection and uterine scarring.
^ GBD 2015 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence, Collaborators. (8 October 2016). "Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 310 diseases and injuries, 1990-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015". Lancet. 388 (10053): 1545–1602. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31678-6. PMC 5055577. PMID 27733282.
In the well-established fertility treatment of IVF, unlike IUI, the meeting of sperm and egg takes place outside the body, in the laboratory (in vitro). This gives fertility practitioners a lot more control over the selection of a genetically normal embryo that has the best chance of establishing a successful pregnancy. IVF is the fertility treatment with the highest likelihood of taking home a healthy baby. These are the stages involved in IVF:

The eggs are retrieved from the patient using a transvaginal technique called transvaginal oocyte retrieval, involving an ultrasound-guided needle piercing the vaginal wall to reach the ovaries. Through this needle follicles can be aspirated, and the follicular fluid is passed to an embryologist to identify ova. It is common to remove between ten and thirty eggs. The retrieval procedure usually takes between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the number of mature follicles, and is usually done under conscious sedation or general anaesthesia.

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.

A genetic disorder. If you or your partner is at risk of passing on a genetic disorder to your child, you may be candidates for preimplantation genetic testing — a procedure that involves IVF. After the eggs are harvested and fertilized, they're screened for certain genetic problems, although not all genetic problems can be found. Embryos that don't contain identified problems can be transferred to the uterus.


^ Chavez-Badiola, Alejandro; Flores-Saiffe Farias, Adolfo; Mendizabal-Ruiz, Gerardo; Garcia-Sanchez, Rodolfo; Drakeley, Andrew J.; Garcia-Sandoval, Juan Paulo (10 March 2020). "Predicting pregnancy test results after embryo transfer by image feature extraction and analysis using machine learning". Scientific Reports. 10 (1): 4394. Bibcode:2020NatSR..10.4394C. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-61357-9. PMC 7064494. PMID 32157183.
Cytoplasmic transfer is where the cytoplasm from a donor egg is injected into an egg with compromised mitochondria. The resulting egg is then fertilised with sperm and implanted in a womb, usually that of the woman who provided the recipient egg and nuclear DNA. Cytoplasmic transfer was created to aid women who experience infertility due to deficient or damaged mitochondria, contained within an egg's cytoplasm.
The educational health content on What To Expect is reviewed by our medical review board and team of experts to be up-to-date and in line with the latest evidence-based medical information and accepted health guidelines, including the medically reviewed What to Expect books by Heidi Murkoff. This educational content is not medical or diagnostic advice. Use of this site is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy. © 2020 Everyday Health, Inc
Success rates vary with the number of embryos transferred. However, transferring more and more embryos at one time does not increase the chance of live birth significantly, but may only increase the risk of a multiple pregnancy, and its associated risks. The impact of the number of embryos that are transferred also varies with the age of the woman.  

Your doctor will also monitor whether or not the treatment led to a multiple pregnancy. IVF has a higher risk of conceiving multiples, and a multiple pregnancy carries risks for both the mother and the babies. Risks of a multiple pregnancy include premature labor and delivery, maternal hemorrhage, C-section delivery, pregnancy induced high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes.
Give in to the grief. While you probably feel incredibly disappointed and sad about your infertility problems, you may feel guilty giving in to those emotions. Parents facing secondary infertility often feel they don’t have the “right” to feel sad about their struggles because they should be grateful for the child they already have. But if you want more children and are having trouble getting pregnant again, you are just as entitled as anyone else to feel depressed or angry. The last thing you need when you’re coping with secondary infertility is to let guilt weigh you down even more.
In humans, infertility is the inability to become pregnant after one year of intercourse without contraception involving a male and female partner.[2] There are many causes of infertility, including some that medical intervention can treat.[3] Estimates from 1997 suggest that worldwide about five percent of all heterosexual couples have an unresolved problem with infertility. Many more couples, however, experience involuntary childlessness for at least one year: estimates range from 12% to 28%.[4] Male infertility is responsible for 20–30% of infertility cases, while 20–35% are due to female infertility, and 25–40% are due to combined problems in both parts.[2][5] In 10–20% of cases, no cause is found.[5] The most common cause of female infertility is ovulatory problems, which generally manifest themselves by sparse or absent menstrual periods.[6] Male infertility is most commonly due to deficiencies in the semen, and semen quality is used as a surrogate measure of male fecundity.[7]
A Cochrane review came to the result that endometrial injury performed in the month prior to ovarian induction appeared to increase both the live birth rate and clinical pregnancy rate in IVF compared with no endometrial injury. There was no evidence of a difference between the groups in miscarriage, multiple pregnancy or bleeding rates. Evidence suggested that endometrial injury on the day of oocyte retrieval was associated with a lower live birth or ongoing pregnancy rate.[30]

Epigenetic testing may allow patients to forgo the cost of multiple rounds of IVF by predicting whether embryos will fail. Equipped with this information, couples can have their IVF cycles optimized to account for embryonic versus fertilization issues. This represents a significant leap for the medical community given that 36% of couples struggling with unexplained infertility are currently over-treated.
When you face secondary infertility, you’re dealing not only with the typical ups and downs of TTC, but also with the additional emotional fallout that is unique to those having difficulty getting pregnant with baby number two. In addition to feeling disappointed and upset, you may also be feeling shock (“I got pregnant so easily the first time, there’s no way I could have infertility problems”), guilt (“I already have a child, so I should be happy”) and even isolation (“I can’t connect with the people facing primary infertility and I can’t connect with my friends who have multiple kids”). How do you reconcile these conflicting emotions — and how do you tackle them while trying to raise the child you already have?
Progesterone elevation on the day of induction of final maturation is associated with lower pregnancy rates in IVF cycles in women undergoing ovarian stimulation using GnRH analogues and gonadotrophins.[23] At this time, compared to a progesterone level below 0.8 ng/ml, a level between 0.8 and 1.1 ng/ml confers an odds ratio of pregnancy of approximately 0.8, and a level between 1.2 and 3.0 ng/ml confers an odds ratio of pregnancy of between 0.6 and 0.7.[23] On the other hand, progesterone elevation does not seem to confer a decreased chance of pregnancy in frozen–thawed cycles and cycles with egg donation.[23]
Insemination – This is done as close to the day of ovulation as possible. During insemination, washed and concentrated sperm is injected into the top of your uterus through a small catheter inserted through the vagina and cervix. Once injected, the catheter is removed. You can expect the insemination to take just a few minutes. It is possible to experience mild cramping post-procedure. The sperm used in your IUI can usually be collected at the office performing the IUI (preferred if possible), frozen and shipped to the center, collected fresh at your home and shipped to our centers using our sperm shipping kits (not advised), or ordered and sent to our office from a donor agency. Fresh semen samples are prepared in our laboratory to obtain a concentration of active sperm.
Cancer. Although some early studies suggested there may be a link between certain medications used to stimulate egg growth and the development of a specific type of ovarian tumor, more-recent studies do not support these findings. There does not appear to be a significantly increased risk of breast, endometrial, cervical or ovarian cancer after IVF.
×