Over the recent past, we’ve been discussing infertility. We looked at the myths surrounding it and established that it’s a medical condition affecting both men and women indiscriminately. Today, we peer into In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and how it solves the infertility snag.
So, how does IVF help people who face the obstacle of infertility? Haveyou ever heard the term ‘test tube baby’? This is the genesis; an egg is removed from the ovaries of the woman and it is fertilized with a sperm (could be your partner’s or from a sperm donor) in the lab. The fertilized egg (embryo), is returned into the woman’s womb for growth and development, and the rest is as normal.
Another good question to ask could be, can any patient suffering infertility benefit from IVF?The following qualify:
- Patients who have blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, which make it difficult for an egg to be fertilized or for the embryo to be transferred to the uterus.
- Women who have ovulation disorders, uterine fibroids or premature ovarian failure.
- Women who have had their fallopian tubes removed.
- Persons with genetic disorder.
- Male factor; low sperm count or an inability of the sperms to move properly through the female reproductive tract (internal fertilization) to reach the egg
- Unexplained infertility.
After having been diagnosed with infertility and having settled on IVF as the next course of action, it would be advisable to consult with the fertility specialist and agree on your treatment plan.
So is IVF a magic wand that I wave today and by tomorrow I am expectant? Well, like many medical procedures, IVF has its own. A typical IVF procedure will follow these five steps:
Monitoring and stimulation: The objective of this step is to stimulate the production of eggs. Yes, eggs, not an egg, because not all eggs produced are viable for fertilization after retrieval. The stimulation could be by fertility medication whose prescription may differ from person to person depending on the patient. The ovaries are usually examined through the use of a transvaginal ultrasound while the hormone levels are carefully regulated. In some cases, this stage also involves suppressing the menstrual cycle with medication, but this varies from patient to patient. The first stage consists of various clinic visits for proper monitoring and modification of the treatment plan; the frequency of the visits and thedrug dosage may depending on your body’s response.
Egg retrieval: This is done through a minor surgery where ultrasound imaging guides the needle through the pelvic cavity to retrieve the eggs to be used. The word surgery might sound very painful, however, medication is usually provided for alleviation of pain or discomfort.
Securing the sperm: Your male is partner asked to provide a sample sperm that is prepared for fertilization with the retrieved eggs.
Fertilization:In this insemination stage, the eggs are combined with the sperm and stored in conditions that facilitate fertilization. In certain cases whereby the probability of fertilization is lower, a single sperm is directly injected into the egg by a micro-needle in a process called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection. This is followed by transfer of the egg to an incubator where fertilization takes place. The eggs are usually monitored so that fertilization may be confirmed when cell division begins, after which, they are now considered embryos.
Embryo transfer: In a period of about three to five days after insemination, the embryos are then transferred to the woman’s uterus by use of a small tube (catheter) which is usually inserted into the uterus; a painless process, but there are a few cases of mild cramping.
If the above listed procedure is successful, implantation (what we call conception) occurs between two to three days from the time the embryo is transferred. However, it isn’t time to celebrate as yet, a pregnancy test is required to confirm conception two weeks thereafter.Next time, we delve into the moral questions of the process, is it right? Is it legal in Kenya? Who can have IVF? What are its side effects? What are the chances of success? I look forward to addressing these questions and possibly more.