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.
Advanced technologies add to your IVF bill but may also make a huge difference to your success rate. Pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) can improve implantation rate by selectively transferring genetically normal embryos. For couples with male factor infertility, Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can help deliver a sperm directly into the egg. Nevertheless, ICSI only improves success rate in couples with severe male infertility.
The Fallopian tubes are the site for fertilization before the embryo makes its way to the uterine cavity for implantation. If the Fallopian tubes are damaged, fertilization may not occur. If one Fallopian tube is blocked, it may be due to inherent disease involving both Fallopian tubes; even if the other Fallopian tube is open, it may not be able to provide the appropriate nurturing environment for fertilization and early embryo growth to take place.
With each year that passes, your chances of conceiving decrease significantly, says Julie Tan, M.D., a gynecologist at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Reproductive Medicine, in Ohio. Sometimes even doctors downplay infertility, she notes. Most experts recommend seeing your doc after a year of unsuccessful unprotected sex if you're under age 35 and after six months if you're over 35. But if you're worried sooner, speak up. "If it's been three months and you're concerned, it's not too early to get evaluated, even though it may be premature to treat," explains Dr. Grifo. "Waiting a year to find out there's an issue with sperm count or egg supply can lead to a lot of heartache." You can start with your primary-care doc or ob-gyn but if you're not pregnant after a few months or feel your doctor isn't taking the situation seriously, see a fertility specialist.
Each case of infertility is different from the other. Hence it is extremely crucial, to be honest with your doctor about all your symptoms and problems. The doctor needs to know all the details regarding your reproductive health including any previous miscarriages, or abortions if any. This helps in diagnosis and formulating a correct treatment for infertility.
A woman's age is a major factor in the success of IVF for any couple. For instance, a woman who is under age 35 and undergoes IVF has a 39.6% chance of having a baby, while a woman over age 40 has an 11.5% chance. However, the CDC recently found that the success rate is increasing in every age group as the techniques are refined and doctors become more experienced.

Heavy, as in a pad and a tampon still doesn’t feel like enough. Certain medical conditions, like thyroid problems or kidney disease, can cause excessive menstrual bleeding, medications (such as anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-coagulants) may as well; or the reason may be a condition linked to infertility. In a normal menstrual cycle, the hormones estrogen and progesterone work together to regulate the buildup of the lining of the uterus—that’s the stuff that sheds during your period. But if, for example, your ovaries don’t release an egg, the dominoes are tipped: your body produces less progesterone, hormones become imbalanced, the lining in your uterus over-develops, and you end up bleeding extra heavily. Fibroids in your uterus can also cause heavier or longer-than-normal periods; some types of these benign tumors can block fallopian tubes or interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. Up to 10 percent of infertile women have fibroids, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. If you soak through at least one pad or tampon an hour for more than a few hours, see your doctor.  This is the worst health advice gynecologists have ever heard.
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]

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]
One, two or three IVF treatments are government subsidised for women who are younger than 40 and have no children. The rules for how many treatments are subsidised, and the upper age limit for the women, vary between different county councils.[154] Single women are treated, and embryo adoption is allowed. There are also private clinics that offer the treatment for a fee.[155]
The stress of secondary infertility on an individual's life and relationships can be significant. It can be hard to find support from family and friends, especially when a woman or couple already has/have children. Sentiments such as, "you should be grateful for what you have," or, "just keep trying," almost never serve as useful advice or support. Couples and single parents can even experience resentment from other couples with infertility who are unable to even have their first child.
^ 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.
While PGD was originally designed to screen for embryos carrying hereditary genetic diseases, the method has been applied to select features that are unrelated to diseases, thus raising ethical questions. Examples of such cases include the selection of embryos based on histocompatibility (HLA) for the donation of tissues to a sick family member, the diagnosis of genetic susceptibility to disease, and sex selection.[97]
I found that I couldn't avoid the sense that we were not yet all here, that there was a person missing. In one of those strange confluences, I was, at the same time, writing a novel about a woman who had just given birth. I was spending my days at the fertility clinic and my evenings writing about the strange, shadowy world of early motherhood. My husband, coming into my study and finding me in tears again, laid his hand gently on the manuscript and said, "Do you ever think that writing this book might not be helping?" But you don't choose the books; they choose you. And if I couldn't bring a baby into being in real life, I was damn well going to do it in fiction.
Egg Development – This step is either part of the woman’s natural egg development or stimulated with medications and lasts roughly 5-14 days. Once your follicles are optimal size, a trigger medication may be given to finalize egg maturation and trigger ovulation. This phase of egg development may or may not be accompanied by ultrasound and bloodwork monitoring.
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.
Talk it out. Once you realize you’re entitled to your emotions, find an outlet for them. Talking about your feelings and your struggles can be a huge release and allow you to receive the support you need. If your family or friends don’t understand your sadness (or you find it hard to contain your baby envy around friends with more than one child), seek out people in your same situation. Find a support group for people with secondary infertility — online or in your area. And consider joining WTE's Trying to Conceive group to find moms who are also coping with secondary infertility.

IUI: An IUI can be done with no medications or a number of different medications to help develop and ovulate one or two eggs. Around day 14 of a woman’s cycle, the insemination takes place which deposits sperm inside the uterus. This greatly increases the number of sperm at the junction of the uterus and fallopian tubes, the distance they have to swim to meet the egg, and thus increases the chances of natural conception for many people.

Once the embryos are ready, you will return to the IVF facility so doctors can transfer one or more into your uterus. This procedure is quicker and easier than the retrieval of the egg. The doctor will insert a flexible tube called a catheter through your vagina and cervix and into your uterus, where the embryos will be deposited. To increase the chances of pregnancy, most IVF experts recommend transferring up to three embryos at a time. However, this means you could have a multiple pregnancy, which can increase the health risks for both you and the babies.


4. Significant Hair Growth (or Hair Loss): Polycystic ovarian syndrome causes small cysts to form on the outside of the ovaries, and it also causes the body to produce an excess of male hormones. If you notice hair growing in unusual places like your face, arms, chest or back, this could be a warning sign. On the flip side, hair loss or thinning could be a sign of other infertility related conditions like thyroid issues, anemia or autoimmune disorders.


Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): This procedure involves direct injection of a single sperm of the male partner into the eggs of the female for fertilization. Just like IVF procedure, in ICSI, the sperm and egg are collected from both the partners. The only difference is the fertilization process as in IVF the sperms and egg are mixed naturally, and in ICSI the sperms are injected into the egg using a needle.
A 2013 review and meta analysis of randomised controlled trials of acupuncture as an adjuvant therapy in IVF found no overall benefit, and concluded that an apparent benefit detected in a subset of published trials where the control group (those not using acupuncture) experienced a lower than average rate of pregnancy requires further study, due to the possibility of publication bias and other factors.[34]
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.
The Fallopian tubes are the site for fertilization before the embryo makes its way to the uterine cavity for implantation. If the Fallopian tubes are damaged, fertilization may not occur. If one Fallopian tube is blocked, it may be due to inherent disease involving both Fallopian tubes; even if the other Fallopian tube is open, it may not be able to provide the appropriate nurturing environment for fertilization and early embryo growth to take place.
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]
The take home message of these studies is that when gonadotropins are given to this patient population at a dose that doesn’t put the patient at significant risk of twins (like the 75 units in the Huang study), they are no better than oral medications (clomid and letrozole) at producing successful pregnancies. This is important because clomid and letrozole are also cheaper to purchase (hundreds vs. thousands of dollars) and easier to administer (oral rather than injectable). For this reason, many clinics have moved away from using gonadotropins in IUI cycles.
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.
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^ Baker VL, Luke B, Brown MB, Alvero R, Frattarelli JL, Usadi R, et al. (September 2010). "Multivariate analysis of factors affecting probability of pregnancy and live birth with in vitro fertilization: an analysis of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinic Outcomes Reporting System". Fertility and Sterility. 94 (4): 1410–6. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.07.986. PMID 19740463.
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