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In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a common fertility treatment program in which eggs are surgically removed from the woman's ovaries, then fertilized with sperm outside the body in a glass dish. If fertilization is successful, the eggs are reimplanted in the uterus several days later.

The first part of the process, called ovulation induction, uses prescription fertility medications to control the timing of the egg and increase the chances of collecting multiple eggs during one of the woman’s cycles. Often, the eggs will not develop or fertilize after collection, which is the reason behind ovulation induction. Egg development is regularly monitored through ultrasound, and hormone levels through urine and blood samples.

The eggs are located using ultrasound, and collected using a procedure called follicular aspiration, in which a hollow needle is inserted through the pelvic cavity, and into the ovaries. The sperm, usually obtained through ejaculation, is prepared to be combined with the eggs.

In a process called insemination, the sperm and eggs are place together in glass incubation tubes in the laboratory. In cases where there is a lower possibility of incubation, a technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a single sperm is injected directly into the egg, is performed. The eggs are closely monitored for fertilization and cell division. When this takes place, the eggs are considered embryos and ready for transplant.

Embryos are transplanted into the woman’s uterus as early as one or as late as six days following egg retrieval, at which point the fertilized egg has developed into a two- to four-celled embryo. A speculum is inserted into the vagina to expose the cervix, and using a catheter guided by ultrasound, a predetermined number of embryos suspended in fluid are gently placed in the womb. Finally, the woman is closely monitored for early signs and symptoms of pregnancy, as well as having regular blood tests performed.

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