In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the best known, and most widely used, of all the assisted reproductive technology options. Using this technology, oocytes (eggs) are directly removed from the woman’s ovaries and exposed to sperm in a petri dish to achieve fertilization. The advantages of this approach lies in the fact that a number of reproductive processes are bypassed, eliminating the need for the fallopian tube to pick up the ovulated egg and transport the embryo. Further, in vitro fertilization permits direct exposure of the sperm to the egg, providing the best possible scenario for sperm to fertilize the egg.
No surgery is needed for recovering the eggs. The woman is carefully sedated to insure her comfort while recovery of eggs is achieved through the vagina, using ultrasound guidance. The laboratory immediately identifies and collects the eggs, preparing them for exposure to sperm either by incubating thousands of sperm with the egg (insemination), or by directly injecting an individual sperm into each egg (ICSI, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection). The resulting embryos are cultured for between two to five days in the laboratory before being transferred into the uterus.
The embryology laboratory team carefully handles the embryos, observing their growth and a number of characteristics which enable the embryologist to select the best one to two embryos for transfer into the woman’s uterus. Transfer of the embryo or embryos is achieved by carefully passing a tiny catheter through the cervix to a precise position in the uterus (endometrium). A small microdrop of special fluid is used to “float” the embryos into position and the catheter is slowly withdrawn, then being examined under the microscope to make sure the transfer occurred. Any remaining embryos are then carefully observed and cryopreserved (frozen) for subsequent transfer.
You can also find detailed information in our IVF handbook that will help guide you through the in vitro fertilization process.