What is In Vitro Fertilization?

Why is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) used?

In infertile couples where women have blocked or absent fallopian tubes, or where men have low sperm counts, in vitro fertilization (IVF) offers a chance at parenthood to couples who until recently would have had no hope of having a "biologically related" child.

What is the process of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?

In IVF, eggs are surgically removed from the ovary and mixed with sperm outside the body in a Petri dish ("in vitro" is Latin for "in glass"). After about 40 hours, the eggs are examined to see if they have become fertilized by the sperm and are dividing into cells. These fertilized eggs (embryos) are then placed in the woman's uterus, thus bypassing the fallopian tubes.

When was In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) first introduced?

IVF was introduced in the United States in 1981. Since 1985, when we began counting, through the end of 2006, almost 500,000 babies have been born in the United States as a result of reported Assisted Reproductive Technology procedures (IVF, GIFT, ZIFT, and combination procedures). IVF currently accounts for more than 99% of ART procedures with GIFT, ZIFT and combination procedures making up the remainder. The average live delivery rate for IVF in 2005 was 31.6 percent per retrieval--a little better than the 20 percent chance in any given month that a reproductively healthy couple has of achieving a pregnancy and carrying it to term. In 2002, approximately one in every hundred babies born in the US was conceived using ART and that trend continues today.

What are the risks of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?

  • What are the possible side effects of injectable fertility medicines?
    • Soreness and mild bruising at the injection site.
    • Nausea, mood swings, fatigue.
    • Breast tenderness and increased vaginal discharge.
    • Temporary allergic reactions.
    • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)
  • What are the possible risks of egg retrieval?
    • Mild to moderate pelvic and abdominal pain.
    • Very rarely, bowel or blood vessel injury can require emergency surgery.
  • What are the risks associated with embryo transfer?
    • Women may feel mild cramping or vaginal spotting afterward.
    • Very rarely, an infection may develop, which can usually be treated with antibiotics.
  • Where can I get more information on IVF?
    • For more information on IVF related pregnancies, future pregnancies, and possible risk of birth defects, explore
    • There's more information on the risks of IVF and other reproductive health topics

Find out more about Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)
is a patient education website of ASRM.



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