An Introduction To In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization or IVF is a technological advancement in the medical arena in response to the alarming rate of infertility in developed countries. The concept was pioneered by Patrick Steptoe and Dr. Robert Edwards, a Cambridge physiologist, late in the 1960s and about ten years later, the first IVF baby was delivered in the UK.
IVF was invented primarily to help women that suffer infertility due to blocked or diseased uterine tubes, but over time, the application of the procedure has been extended to cover cases like endometriosis, hostile cervical mucus and a host of other infertility problems. It is even applied now in cases where the husband or male partner suffers from a low sperm count, albeit, the results with the latter have not been particularly impressive.
The process of in vitro fertilization, essentially, involves the use of a laparoscope; a telescope, which can be inserted into a woman’s abdomen under anesthetic conditions, to remove eggs from the woman’s ovary at a period just before the time it would naturally be released (ovulated). The harvested egg is then mixed with the washed and diluted male sperm in a glass dish. If fertilization occurs between the egg and the sperm, the resultant embryo is allowed to develop in the laboratory, usually for two to three days before the embryo is then re-inserted or implanted in the woman’s uterine cavity through a sort of plastic tube.
Like every other man made procedure, IVF has its own share of limitations and adverse effects. The success rate of the procedure and the risk of suffering an ectopic pregnancy; a pregnancy that implants and develops outside the uterine cavity and almost always ends up with erupted uterine tube, are two of such issues. Also, with IVF, pregnancy does not always guarantee birth. Miscarriages and ectopic pregnancy tend to be higher with this procedure compared to the general population. Losing the pregnancy from an IVF procedure is fairly common, although no general estimate exists, while the occurrence of ectopic pregnancy from IVF is put at 5-10% of all IVF pregnancies.
Another issue with in vitro fertilization is the success rate. The recorded successes for IVF procedures vary from place to place, though no figure is considered high anywhere. For every couple that resort to IVF and get a happy outcome, there are several more couples that find their infertility problem intractable. Albeit, the technological basis of IVF is getting better by the day, as more facts become clear about IVF, leading to better results with IVF attempts, the figures cited in most leading IVF centers are in this order: an eight to ten percent chance of pregnancy if only one embryo is implanted in the woman’s uterus, a twenty percent chance if two embryos are implanted and a thirty percent chance of getting pregnant with three embryos implanted. For medical reasons, the number of embryos implanted rarely goes above three or four. However, it is imperative to reiterate, here, that pregnancy, as with normal conditions, does not always guarantee birth.
In vitro fertilization has been a major advancement in infertility treatment over the last couple of decades. The procedure demands sophisticated technological equipment plus a high level of skill on the part of the medical operators. Despite the fact that doctors and others in the medical field can’t make promises or guarantees about IVF yet, it is obvious that the procedure has put joy on the faces of many couples and still holds hope for those waiting for it.