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In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

The next day, your doctor will check to see how many eggs have been fertilized. Depending on their quality, extra embryos may be frozen for use at another time, in case your first cycle doesn't succeed. Two to five days later, your doctor will carefully transfer two to four of the embryos to your uterus using a thin catheter. If the treatment works, an embryo will implant itself to the wall of your uterus and continue to grow.

After the transfer, your doctor will order two to three days of bed rest. You'll be asked to continue taking your hormone medication for about two weeks until a pregnancy test can determine whether the cycle was a success.

Success rate of IVF

IVF success rates vary depending on the cause of your infertility, the facility at which you're having the procedure done, and your age. As with natural conception, success rates are higher in women under 40 because younger women tend to have healthier eggs. On average, you have a 35 percent chance of getting pregnant with each IVF cycle and a 29 percent possibility of delivering a baby.

Blastocyst transfer and assisted hatching

If you've already gone through one IVF cycle and did not become pregnant, one option is to try again. There is no limit to how many times you may attempt to get pregnant through IVF, but that can be very costly and the ongoing cycle of treatment and failure may do a number on your emotions.

There are two types of transfers that may occur in the IVF procedure. The standard is a 3-day transfer, when the fertilized eggs are between six and eight cells. In the past few years, however, doctors have moved toward transferring embryos during the blastocyst state when they consist of more than 130 cells. A blastocyst is an embryo that has developed for five days after fertilization and has divided into two different cell types. The embryos that survive this long are usually strong and healthy, and typically offer a greater chance of implantation into the uterine wall.

Another technique that may increase your chances of a successful IVF procedure is known as assisted hatching. It has been speculated that fertility medications and the egg's normal aging process can cause changes in the protective outer membrane that surrounds the embryo, known as the zona pellucida, and harden it, which may interfere with the normal hatching process. Assisted hatching is a procedure in which a hole is made in the outer membrane to help improve the chances of implantation. It helps to thin the thicker-than-normal shell of the embryo to the point where it can hatch on it's own, offering it a better chance of implantation. According to the Center for Reproductive Health & Gynecology, assisted hatching is indicated in the following conditions:

  • Your embryos show evidence of having a thick or hardened zona pellucida
  • You are over the age of 35 and using your own eggs
  • You are using frozen embryos
  • Assisted hatching can significantly improve the chances of conception for women who have had repeated failure of embryo implantation with IVF.
  • Risks of IVF

Just one cycle of IVF takes anywhere from four to six weeks to complete, and, as with any high-tech fertility treatment, it has its risks. While there haven't been medical problems linked to the procedure, there was previous concern that fertility drugs may increase a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer. Recent examinations of those reports conducted between 1989 and 1999 have found this theory to be untrue, which is good news for couples considering IVF.

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