Understanding the IVF Fertilization Process
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) that can help people with fertility problems become pregnant. The procedure is a multi-step process, designed to effectively overcome difficulties that women or their partners might have at different stages that make up the process of conception. The step which involves mixing the sperm and eggs in a laboratory setting is called IVF fertilization. Our fertility centers have had great success helping women and couples have healthy babies. If you would like to learn more about the IVF process, costs, or candidates, please contact our office to make an appointment with one of our fertility specialists.
The IVF procedure begins with ovarian stimulation and monitoring. In this step, the patient is given medications that will stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Her response to the medication is then monitored by ultrasound, and when a large enough number of healthy eggs have been produced, she will be given another medication that triggers the final maturation and release of the eggs for retrieval.
The eggs are retrieved using a process called ultrasound-directed vaginal aspiration of the ovarian follicles. Once the eggs have been obtained, they will be mixed with the sperm for fertilization in a laboratory. The fertilization process lasts approximately three to five days, after which a small number of healthy, fertilized embryos will be transferred to the uterus.
A semen sample will be obtained from the woman's partner or a donor. This sample will be processed and tested in our laboratory to assess the count, shape, and motility of the sperm. If the partner suffers from a low sperm count, abnormally shaped sperm, or low motility, our doctors can recommend treatment options that will improve the chances of extracting a healthy sample.
Once a healthy sample has been obtained, an embryologist will separate the sperm with the highest motility during a process called sperm washing. This removes the sperm from the seminal fluid, which contains chemicals that could inhibit fertilization of the eggs. The highest quality sperm will then be selected to fertilize the eggs.
Advanced Treatment Options
Traditionally, the sperm and egg will be placed in a laboratory dish where fertilization will occur similar to natural conception. Another method of fertilization that we use to increase the likelihood of fertilization is called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). ICSI injects a healthy sperm directly into an egg's center. No matter which method is used, the sperm and egg mixture will be placed in an incubator for a period of about 18 hours and monitored for signs of fertilization. After successful fertilization, it will take approximately 12 hours for the cell to divide in two. After an additional 48 hours, the cells will have divided again, all embryos will be frozen or a healthy embryo will be selected and prepared for transfer into the mother's uterus.
Schedule an Appointment
If you have had trouble conceiving, we can help. To learn more about whether IVF or another of our fertility treatments is right for you, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.