In vitro fertilization (IVF) was once considered impossible and is now responsible for millions of births all over the world. The success of IVF has a lot to do with the advances in medical knowledge and technology in reproductive health.
Our fertility experts — Drs. Kevin and Kathy Doody, Dr. Anna Nackley, and Dr. Robin Thomas — at CARE Fertility in Bedford and Fort Worth, Texas, have dedicated their lives to improving assisted reproductive technology (ART) and IVF. Here, we explain how IVF works and how it’s advanced over the years.
In vitro is the scientific term for a procedure performed in a laboratory. In basic terms, IVF means egg fertilization outside of the body, and the first baby born using IVF was referred to as a test tube baby. But the test tube is only one part of a multi-step process.
First we extract eggs from the ovaries and collect sperm. Then, we perform the fertilization part of IVF by either mixing the egg and sperm and incubating them overnight or injecting one healthy sperm into one healthy egg.
A few days after egg retrieval, we place the embryo, or embryos, in a woman’s uterus for implantation, or we freeze the embryos in a process called vitrification.
Advances in IVF started within a few years after the birth of the first test tube baby, and improvements continue today. Some of the advances in IVF include:
This is now a standard procedure for those undergoing infertility treatments. This part of the IVF process involves taking ovary stimulating medication to increase egg production during ovulation. COS was used for one of the first IVF babies born in the United States.
Preimplantation genetic testing involves screening the embryos for genetic abnormalities before placement in the uterus. This screening tool has significantly improved the rate of IVF success because it ensures the healthiest embryos are used.
Embryo freezing is also an advancement in IVF treatment, allowing people to use their embryos at a later date. Vitrification is a fast-freezing technique that prevents the formation of ice crystals, improving post-thaw survival of the embryo.
Before PGT, doctors would place multiple embryos in the uterus to improve the chances of success. But with the ability to screen embryos to look for the healthiest ones, we can have success with IVF using SET — placing one embryo selected from all available embryos. This process also makes it safer for the pregnancy.
Our own fertility specialists created Effortless IVF as a tool that cuts out the need to incubate the egg and sperm in a lab. Instead, we place the egg and sperm into a device called an INVOcell®, which we then place into a woman’s uterus — the most ideal place for fertilization.
This advance lowers the total cost of IVF, making the procedure more accessible.
With these advances, many fertility experts are turning to IVF as a first line treatment for infertility. IVF is a safe infertility treatment that has helped many parents grow their family.
Are you considering IVF? We can talk to you about the process and help you get started. Call the CARE Fertility office near you, or request a consultation appointment online today.