IVF is complicated and, while we wish we could say that it's possible to absorb all the details during the 5 - 30 minute visits with your doctor, that's really not the case. This comprehensive guide to IVF boils down every major issue you'll encounter -- a high level overview of the IVF process, a deeper dive into the IVF process, IVF success rates and how they differ depending on diagnosis and age, the medication protocols that can be used during IVF, the choice of inseminating eggs either using ICSI fertilization or conventional insemination, the pros and cons of growing embryos to Day 3 cleavage stage or Day 5 blastocyst stage, the decisions around genetic screening of embryos, deciding which embryo to transfer, deciding how many embryos to transfer at once, the ways the IVF laboratory can impact your odds of success and the things you need to know up front to avoid going to the wrong lab for you, the risks of IVF, and the costs of IVF. We're always sure to provide details about how data might be different depending on different unique types of patients -- because in the world of fertility, it's really not one-size-fits-all. We truly believe this guide is the foundation every fertility patient should start with when they're navigating the world of treatments.
^ Hozyasz, K (March 2001). "Coeliac disease and problems associated with reproduction". Ginekol Pol. 72 (3): 173–9. PMID 11398587. Coeliac men may have reversible infertility, and as in women, if gastrointestinal symptoms are mild or absent the diagnosis may be missed. It is important to make diagnosis because the giving of gluten free diet may result in conception and favourable outcome of pregnancy.
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine & Surgery from the University of Navarra, with specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology from the University of the Basque Country. He has over 30 years of experience in the field and works as a Titular Professor at the University of the Basque Country and the Master's Degree in Human Reproduction of the Complutense University of Madrid. Vice-president of the SEF. More information about Gorka Barrenetxea Ziarrusta
The treatment options for unexplained infertility are several and the treatment results are promising. Expectant management can be recommended if the woman is under 28-30 years of age and the infertility duration is less than 2-3 years. In vitro fertilization (IVF) has revolutionized the treatment of infertile couples, as well as profoundly increasing the basic understanding of human reproduction. IVF can be used as both a diagnostic and a therapeutic tool in couples with unexplained infertility. The pregnancy rates with IVF are good, at 40% per treatment cycle. In addition, the outcome of pregnancies among women with unexplained infertility is generally comparable to that of spontaneous and other pregnancies using assisted reproductive technologies.

Assisted hatching. About five to six days after fertilization, an embryo "hatches" from its surrounding membrane (zona pellucida), allowing it to implant into the lining of the uterus. If you're an older woman, or if you have had multiple failed IVF attempts, your doctor might recommend assisted hatching — a technique in which a hole is made in the zona pellucida just before transfer to help the embryo hatch and implant. Assisted hatching is also useful for eggs or embryos that have been previously frozen as the process can harden the zona pellucida. 

Today, with assisted-reproductive technology, the chance of successful treatment is very good. Intrauterine insemination with superovulation is the simplest approach since it increases the chances of the egg and sperm meeting, but some patients may also need GIFT and IVF. IVF can be helpful because it provides information about the sperm's fertilizing ability; GIFT, on the other hand, has a higher pregnancy rate and is applicable in these patients since they have normal fallopian tubes.


In egg donation and embryo donation, the resultant embryo after fertilisation is inserted in another woman than the one providing the eggs. These are resources for women with no eggs due to surgery, chemotherapy, or genetic causes; or with poor egg quality, previously unsuccessful IVF cycles or advanced maternal age. In the egg donor process, eggs are retrieved from a donor's ovaries, fertilised in the laboratory with the sperm from the recipient's partner, and the resulting healthy embryos are returned to the recipient's uterus.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to infertility, and the path you take will be unique to your specific case, but there are some common starting points. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are two of the most popular infertility treatments available today. Understanding what they are, who they are intended for, and what the success rates are for these two options will give you a place to begin your conversations with your fertility expert. Here’s what you need to know.
Medical treatment of infertility generally involves the use of fertility medication, medical device, surgery, or a combination of the following. If the sperm are of good quality and the mechanics of the woman's reproductive structures are good (patent fallopian tubes, no adhesions or scarring), a course of ovulation induction maybe used. The physician or WHNP may also suggest using a conception cap cervical cap, which the patient uses at home by placing the sperm inside the cap and putting the conception device on the cervix, or intrauterine insemination (IUI), in which the doctor or WHNP introduces sperm into the uterus during ovulation, via a catheter. In these methods, fertilization occurs inside the body.
Nope, infertility is not only about you: about one-third of all infertility cases treated in the United States are caused by a male problem. Varicocele is one of them, and it’s when the veins that drain the testicle become enlarged, similar to the varicose veins you get in your leg. It may cause the scrotum to swell or form a weird, twisted mass on the surface (kind of like a small bag of worms). The condition may decrease the quality of sperm, as well as how much is produced—thus impacting fertility. The good news: varicocele can be surgically repaired, which may improve sperm numbers and function or cure the infertility.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to infertility, and the path you take will be unique to your specific case, but there are some common starting points. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are two of the most popular infertility treatments available today. Understanding what they are, who they are intended for, and what the success rates are for these two options will give you a place to begin your conversations with your fertility expert. Here’s what you need to know.

There can be medical causes of SI, says West. "The thyroid is always something we check. Birth can put the thyroid out of kilter." Anwen, a woman in her 40s, tried for five years to have a second child. "I had my daughter when I was 30," she says, "which, at the time, seemed very early. I was the first among all our friends to have a baby." She decided to try for a second when her daughter was three. "But a year went by and nothing happened. I went to the GP and he told me not to worry. 'If you've already given birth, there won't be a problem,' he said. But my daughter turned five and I still wasn't pregnant." Eventually, Anwen persuaded her GP to refer her to a fertility consultant who, after some simple investigations, informed her she had polycystic ovarian syndrome. "He said I'd probably had it all my life and that my daughter was an amazing one-off. I had no idea that anything was wrong." She was given a prescription for the fertility drug Clomid; two months later, she conceived her son.
Regardless of pregnancy result, IVF treatment is usually stressful for patients.[42] Neuroticism and the use of escapist coping strategies are associated with a higher degree of distress, while the presence of social support has a relieving effect.[42] A negative pregnancy test after IVF is associated with an increased risk for depression in women, but not with any increased risk of developing anxiety disorders.[43] Pregnancy test results do not seem to be a risk factor for depression or anxiety among men.[43]

If you're overweight or obese, losing weight can boost your chances of getting pregnant. A study found that women whose body mass index (BMI) was above normal took twice as long to get pregnant as those with a normal BMI. But a drop in weight of 5%-10% can dramatically improve ovulation and pregnancy rates. Obesity can also cause infertility and low testosterone in men. Being significantly underweight can also lead to infertility.


Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is one of the simpler, “low-tech” treatments for infertility and the starting point for many individuals and couples who are having difficulty with conception on their own. Patients who have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, mild male factor infertility, a cervical factor, or irregular or absent ovulation are often good candidates for IUI.
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.
ART techniques generally start with stimulating the ovaries to increase egg production. After stimulation, the physician surgically extracts one or more eggs from the ovary, and unites them with sperm in a laboratory setting, with the intent of producing one or more embryos. Fertilization takes place outside the body, and the fertilized egg is reinserted into the woman's reproductive tract, in a procedure called embryo transfer.
In the US, up to 20% of infertile couples have unexplained infertility. In these cases abnormalities are likely to be present but not detected by current methods. Possible problems could be that the egg is not released at the optimum time for fertilization, that it may not enter the fallopian tube, sperm may not be able to reach the egg, fertilization may fail to occur, transport of the zygote may be disturbed, or implantation fails. It is increasingly recognized that egg quality is of critical importance and women of advanced maternal age have eggs of reduced capacity for normal and successful fertilization. Also, polymorphisms in folate pathway genes could be one reason for fertility complications in some women with unexplained infertility.[59] However, a growing body of evidence suggests that epigenetic modifications in sperm may be partially responsible.[60][61]
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]
Wondering if it’s time to seek fertility help from a specialist? Your age can help clue you in to the answer. If you’re younger than 35, it’s perfectly normal for it to take six months to a year to conceive. If, after a year, you haven’t accomplished your conception goal, you’ll want to talk with your practitioner and/or get a referral to a fertility specialist. If you’re older than 35, experts recommend that you seek help from a fertility specialist after six months of regularly trying to conceive without birth control — and you may even want to go after three months. If you’re over 40, you’ll probably want to start off your quest for a second pregnancy with a fertility evaluation from your doctor. Ditto if your partner is over 40, since 35 to 40 percent of fertility problems can be traced back to the man, and a guy’s age affects the quality of his sperm.
PCOS: Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an ovarian issue that can cause irregular menstrual cycles and make it difficult for women to ovulate — a crucial part of the conception and pregnancy process. Women with PCOS do not release eggs regularly, and their ovaries often have many small cysts within. IVF is a strong option for women with PCOS, since it can help their bodies ovulate to achieve pregnancy.
Laboratories have developed grading methods to judge ovocyte and embryo quality. In order to optimise pregnancy rates, there is significant evidence that a morphological scoring system is the best strategy for the selection of embryos.[72] Since 2009 where the first time-lapse microscopy system for IVF was approved for clinical use,[73] morphokinetic scoring systems has shown to improve to pregnancy rates further.[74] However, when all different types of time-lapse embryo imaging devices, with or without morphokinetic scoring systems, are compared against conventional embryo assessment for IVF, there is insufficient evidence of a difference in live-birth, pregnancy, stillbirth or miscarriage to choose between them.[75] Active efforts to develop a more accurate embryo selection analysis based on Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning are underway. Embryo Ranking Intelligent Classification Assistant (ERICA),[76] is a clear example. This Deep Learning software substitutes manual classifications with a ranking system based on an individual embryo's predicted genetic status in a non-invasive fashion.[77] Studies on this area are still pending and current feasibility studies support its potential.[78]

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.

The Rand Consulting Group has estimated there to be 400,000 frozen embryos in the United States in 2006.[83] The advantage is that patients who fail to conceive may become pregnant using such embryos without having to go through a full IVF cycle. Or, if pregnancy occurred, they could return later for another pregnancy. Spare oocytes or embryos resulting from fertility treatments may be used for oocyte donation or embryo donation to another woman or couple, and embryos may be created, frozen and stored specifically for transfer and donation by using donor eggs and sperm. Also, oocyte cryopreservation can be used for women who are likely to lose their ovarian reserve due to undergoing chemotherapy.[84]
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.
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