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IVF treatment (In vitro fertilization) - What is it?

What is IVF treatment?

You have probably heard about IVF treatment, also known as In Vitro Fertilization, before. But do you know what the process entails, when IVF is the preferred option of assisted reproduction, or how many straws of sperm you should order if you are going to receive IVF treatment with donor sperm? Read along, and we guide you through what you need to know.

What is IVF treatment?

IVF treatment is a method of artificial insemination. In vitro fertilization means “in a glass”. This term is used because, at the beginning of IVF treatment, the fertilization process was performed outside the body in a petri dish. If fertilization is successful and an embryo forms, a doctor transfers the embryo into the uterus where, hopefully, a successful pregnancy occurs. In 1978, the first child was born as a result of in vitro fertilization. Ever since the technique has helped millions of people get pregnant.

The process of IVF treatment

  • Step 1 of IVF treatment: When you start IVF treatment, the first step is to start taking fertility medication. When doing IVF, fertility medication consists of hormones that stimulate the process of egg maturation. This happens in the follicles that are found inside the ovaries. Under normal circumstances, and without medical treatment, only one egg matures during the woman’s fertile period. However, multiple eggs will mature when the woman takes hormones.
  • Step 2 of IVF treatment: When the eggs have matured sufficiently in the ovaries, they are retrieved while the woman is under sedation. The procedure will typically take place 36 hours after the trigger shot. The egg removal is performed by a fertility doctor, who inserts an aspiration needle in the ovaries to collect the eggs for insemination.
An illustration of the proces you go through when receiving IVF treatment

An illustration of the proces you go through when receiving IVF treatment

  • Step 3 of IVF treatment: After collecting the eggs, the doctor prepares the eggs for fertilization in a petri dish. Sperm cells are then placed together with the eggs in the petri dish for them to fertilize. An alternative method is for the embryologist to place a single sperm directly in each egg to maximize the chances of fertilization. This method is called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
  • Step 4 of IVF treatment: When the sperm cells have fertilized the eggs, they form embryos. The embryos must grow in an incubator for 3-5 days until they have developed sufficiently.
  • Step 5 of IVF treatment: The last step in IVF treatment happens once the embryos have developed, the embryologist transfers one or more of the embryos into the woman’s uterus with a catheter. The number of embryos you wish to transfer will typically be decided between you, an eventual partner, and the fertility doctor. It is often that only one embryo is transferred because of potential health risks in a twin pregnancy for both the children and the mother. Hereafter, a pregnancy hopefully occurs, and the treatment is successful. If more than one embryo develops sufficiently, the excess embryos can be frozen and stored for another attempt or siblings. If you want to have twins on your own, then follow the link to our blog post on how to increase your chances of having twins.

Who can have in vitro fertilization?

IVF treatment is an option if you have tubal issues or if you suffer from conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome. In vitro fertilization is also an option if you have tried to get pregnant without success for a long time without explanation, or if the man has low sperm motility. If the woman does not have healthy eggs herself, it is a possibility to perform the treatment with donor eggs.

IVF treatment is also an option for lesbian couples trying to get pregnant, but the process is a bit different. Follow the link to read about IVF treatment for lesbian couples.

Risks of IVF treatment

Before starting in vitro fertilization, you should be aware of the risks and complications linked to the procedure. Some of the most common risks of IVF treatment are:

  • Side effects from the medications used during treatment, such as mood swings or headaches.
  • Ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, typically in the fallopian tubes. This can cause severe bleeding, and the embryo cannot survive. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) occurs when the ovaries overreact to the medications used in IVF. Symptoms may include severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath.

If you want to learn more about the risks and possible complications in IVF treatment, we recommend you contact your fertility doctor.

What is the price of IVF treatment?

The cost of IVF treatment in the UK starts at 5000 GBP per cycle depending on factors such as location, procedures required, and clinic packages the cost may rise even further. Treatment cost usually includes consultations with fertility specialists, ultrasound exams, blood tests, medications, and the actual IVF procedure itself. Before you start the treatment, we recommend you research whether your insurance makes you eligible for fertility treatment in the public healthcare system, as it often helps reduce the total cost of IVF treatment.

The price of in vitro fertilization can vary from one fertility clinic to another and there may be different treatment packages available at different clinics. Therefore, we recommend you research the fertility clinics close to you, to create an overview of the total cost of IVF treatment at their clinic. If you need help finding the right fertility clinic, follow this link to our blog post on the subject.

Woman having an ultrasound after IVF treatment

The success rate for IVF treatment

Just like any other type of fertility treatment, the success rate for IVF treatment depends on different factors such as age, lifestyle, and BMI. All these factors have a great impact on the success rate of IVF treatment. Especially age influences the success rate of in vitro fertilization. According to studies, the success rate for IVF treatment differs a lot depending on age:

  • Women younger than 35: 46,7 %
  • Women from 35 to 37: 34,2 %
  • Women from 38 to 40: 21,6 %
  • Women from 41 to 42: 10,6 %
  • Women at the age of 43 and older: 3,2 %

The positive sign regarding IVF treatment is that studies show an increase in the overall percentage of embryos resulting in a live birth. The improved success rates could be a case of different factors, such as improvement in the medical and laboratory techniques, more focus on lifestyle changes, and improved diagnostic capabilities.

If you want to read more about increasing fertility, follow the link to our blog post 12 tips on how to increase your chances of getting pregnant.

IVF with donor sperm

If you are going to receive IVF with donor sperm, whether you are a couple or alone, the treatment process is the same as described above. The only difference is that you must choose a sperm donor and make sure to order donor sperm before the IVF treatment begins.

How many straws to purchase for IVF with donor sperm?

If you are having IVF with donor sperm, Cryos recommends that you order 1 straw of sperm with MOT5. In terms of purchasing donor sperm for fertility treatment, you may want to follow the link and read more about what type of sperm motility is needed for the different treatments. You can also order a sperm straw with higher motility. You can get access to our free Sperm Donor Search and order sperm straws for treatment at your fertility clinic. If you have questions about the process, you are welcome to contact Cryos' Customer Care team.

In our Facebook group Family Dreams, you can connect with others who either have children or are on the journey of becoming parents with the help of donor sperm.

Which type of sperm to use when having IVF with donor sperm?

To have a successful IVF with donor sperm, you must order IUI straws, where the natural ejaculate fluids have been washed away. Since fertilization happens in a petri dish, the sperm must be washed to give the sperm cells the highest possibility of success.

Read more about the difference between IUI and ICI sperm straws here.

A fertility doctor fertilizing an egg for IVF treatment

Fertilization of an egg in IVF treatment

The difference between fertility treatments

Fertility treatment often starts with IUI, since the treatment is mostly pain-free, does not require surgery, and only takes a couple of minutes before the procedure is over. If you are having IVF treatment, you have often received IUI treatment as the first step, and the procedure has unfortunately not worked the way it was intended.

In the following, we compare in vitro fertilization with different fertility treatments, and take you through your options, if a specific treatment type is unsuccessful.

The difference between IUI and IVF treatment

As mentioned previously, IVF is an assisted reproduction method, where a fertility doctor forms the embryo in a petri dish. After the embryo is successfully formed, it is inseminated into the uterus of the woman receiving the treatment and from there it hopefully evolves into a healthy pregnancy and a live birth.

Unlike IVF, the egg is not retrieved in IUI treatment. Instead, it is fertilized with sperm that is inseminated in the uterus with the help of a thin plastic tube. This also means that the success rate of IUI treatment is lower than of IVF treatment. The difference in success rate between the two fertility treatments is about 10 %.

The difference between ICSI and IVF treatment

ICSI treatment is more similar to IVF than IUI. The only difference between the two types of treatment is that in ICSI, a single sperm cell is injected directly into the egg, instead of placing the cells next to the egg in the petri dish. Because of the direct fertilization, the success rate is higher in ICSI than in IVF treatment.

What to do if IVF treatment does not work?

Sometimes, unfortunately, In vitro fertilization will not result in a pregnancy. After several failed attempts, it may be time to consider other options.

Most women who receive IVF treatment have already tried IUI, or do not have any healthy fallopian tubes, which makes IUI treatment irrelevant. If the cause of infertility seems to be related to the woman receiving treatment, it might be a good idea to consider using donor eggs instead, which will then be fertilized and hopefully form an embryo, which will then be inserted in the woman’s uterus. Many women have successfully become pregnant with donor eggs and thereby had the opportunity to carry their baby throughout the pregnancy.

If the cause of infertility is related to the male partner’s sperm motility, the next step could either be ICSI with a sperm retrieval procedure (extraction of sperm cells directly from the testicles) or fertility treatment with a sperm donor. If you need to use a sperm donor to conceive, we can recommend you contact our Customer Care service, for answers to any questions you may have.