IIn-vitro fertilization, a technique introduced in the 1990s for couples who are unable to get pregnant with other treatments has been instrumental in solving infertility for millions of couples.
IVF involves fertilization of the egg by the sperm outside the body (in-vitro) in a special culture dish, rather than inside the woman's fallopian tubes.
Couples opting for IVF must make sure they have tried their best with natural methods for a sufficient period of time. Please refer to our section on how to become pregnant and conceiving naturally for complete information. You may also be required to undergo tests to ensure that there are no other problems that can be corrected by simpler means. IUI is often tried before deciding on IVF.
Stimulation phase: In this phase, the development of the follicles of the ovary in the first half of the menstrual cycle is carefully observed. Fertility boosting medicines (hormones) are given to stimulate the ovary to greater number of eggs. Having a greater number of eggs increases the chances of success of IVF. Periodic ultrasound scans are required to make sure sufficient number of eggs are developing well.
Ovum retrieval: Once the follicles are well developed, they need to be harvested from the ovary. The procedure is done in a painless manner under anaesthesia. A thin needle is then passed through the vagina under ultrasound guidance and follicular fluid is gently aspirated. This fluid contains the ova (eggs) which are then isolated and placed in a special culture dish. Some eggs may be frozen for future use as well. On the same day, semen collected from the husband is also washed and concentrated and kept ready.
In-vitro Fertilization: The defining feature of the process is fertilization of the egg by the sperm, both of which have been harvested, in a special chamber outside the body of the woman. The culture dish containing the sperm and egg is placed in an incubator that maintains controlled temperature, gaseous and humidity conditions so that healthy embryos develop.
Embryo transfer and conception: Embryos that have formed in the incubator are examined to select the best ones. More than one embryo is often selected for transfer to the prospective mother. The procedure is performed in a painless manner under intravenous sedation. The fertilized eggs are directly placed in the uterus using a thin catheter (tube). This is referred to as embryo transfer. Once this is done, bed rest is advised for 24 hours.
IVF success rates: Please refer to our section on success rates and success stories for more information ( Success rates and success stories)