IVF is an abbreviation for "In-Vitro Fertilization".
The normal process of fertilization, the joining of the egg and the sperm, occurs shortly after ovulation within the fallopian tube, which connects the uterus (womb) to the ovary.
In IVF, fertilization occurs outside the body in a laboratory, after eggs and sperm have been collected. The fertilized eggs, called embryos, are then transferred several days later to the uterus to continue growth.
The IVF and embryo transfer sequence consists of several steps:
- The development and the ripening of the egg(s) in the ovaries is closely monitored.
- Medication is often given to increase the number of eggs developing in the ovaries (hyperstimulation).
- Shortly before the eggs burst out of the follicles (timing is crucial because the egg will not develop properly if it is collected too early or too late), a hollow needle guided by ultrasound is placed into the follicle and eggs are gently removed from the ovaries. This is called "follicular aspiration."
- Sperm is obtained through masturbation.
- Eggs and sperm are mixed together in the laboratory.
- Alternatively, sperm can be injected into the egg through a process called ICSI - Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection.
- The fertilized eggs and embryos are then transferred into the uterus between 3-5 days after fertilization.