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In Vitro Fertilization, Explained

IVF remains one of the most talked about fertility solutions — but what does it involve, and what, really, are the chances of success?

In the natural course of things, fertilization happens when a sperm fertilizes an egg in the mother’s womb. If timed properly, after a long journey to the egg which whittles down the number of sperm from an average of 100 million sperm to about 200, one sperm will penetrate the egg’s protective encasing and fertilize it. After nine months, a healthy baby is born and the beauty of raising your family begins.

However, there are many variables that can affect our ability to get pregnant and successfully deliver a child. If you find yourself struggling in the first stage of getting pregnant, know that you’re not alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 186 million individuals struggle with fertility, so if you’ve been trying to conceive naturally and struggling, treat yourself with patience and kindness. [1]

One of the stages that can prompt the most frustration for individuals or couples trying to conceive is the first stage: fertilization.

Fortunately, this has also been one of the most studied areas of fertility sciences since the 1970s. Since then, decades of research have culminated in the creation of one of the most effective and widely used fertility treatments to date: In Vitro Fertilization.

What is ‘In-Vitro’ Fertilization?

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is, essentially, fertilization that happens in a lab rather than within the uterus. This process allows fertility specialists to control for numerous variables and increase the odds of successful fertilization of the egg, which then increases the odds of the egg implanting and developing into a healthy child.

Who is an ideal candidate for IVF?

Really, anyone who wants to be a parent and has struggled with getting pregnant may want to explore the potential benefits of In Vitro Fertilization.

If you:

  • Are using a surrogate carrier

  • Are a woman over the age of 40 who wants to use her own eggs

  • Have been experiencing difficulty getting pregnant after two years of unprotected sex, and are under the age of 40

  • Struggle with a low sperm count or poor sperm motility

  • Experience issues with ovulation, such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)

  • Have damage or obstruction of the fallopian tubes

  • Have endometriosis

  • Have had your eggs frozen (as many do before undergoing chemotherapy, or to preserve egg quality for the time when you’re ready to become a parent)

  • Are worried about passing on a genetic disorder

  • Reside in a jurisdiction where fertility treatments are only available to married heterosexual couples

There are of course many reasons a woman might struggle to conceive. Above are just a few, but if you’ve been struggling to get pregnant for over six months, it can be helpful talking with fertility specialists who can offer personalized expertise to support you step by step on your journey to having a child.

How does IVF work?

There are five main steps in IVF treatment: Ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, sperm retrieval, fertilization and embryology, and egg transfer to the intended mother or surrogate. This does not include supplemental tests such as pre-genetic testing (PGT).

Ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval procedure

First, the IVF process involves the use of hormone stimulating chemicals, referred to as fertility drugs, that help the ovaries produce multiple oocytes (rather than the one typically produced each menstrual cycle.) This process is called ovarian stimulation.

These fertility medications support ovarian stimulation in two respects. Firstly, the drugs help to manage hormones and cultivate an environment so ovarian follicles can produce a larger quantity of eggs. Secondly, the medications help manage the timing of ovulation so as many mature eggs as possible for collection.

These oocytes are collected using a small aspirating needle. In many cases, parents may opt for pre-genetic testing to select healthier embryos and increase the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy and child. Once selected, the viable eggs are then stripped of their protective shell and examined in a petri dish.

Fertilization and Embryology

There are two techniques for fertilization. In the first method, known as traditional fertilization, the egg is surrounded by thousands of sperm and fertilization occurs naturally over the course of a few hours.

The second technique, called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) involves using a needle to place a single sperm within the egg. This second technique is often used if there are issues with the quality of the sperm or to control for factors that might contribute to fertilization struggles in the past, thereby increasing the odds of successful fertilization.

Embryo transfer

The fertilized egg is then delivered into the woman’s uterus via a catheter, where it can implant on the uterine walls and develop into a healthy pregnancy.

To increase the odds of success, some doctors may implant more than one fertilized egg at once, which is why IVF is often associated with multiple pregnancies, or twin or triplet births. However, at IMA ART Fertility we encourage our clients (including and after PGT) to implant one embryo at a time due to the adverse health impact on a mother carrying twins or triplets.

If the intended parents are unable to carry the child themselves, they may match with a surrogate who can carry their child to term.

Learn more about our Surrogacy Program, built with compassion and commitment to excellence.

What is the timeline for a round of IVF?

From ovarian stimulation through egg collection, sperm collection, fertilization, and embryo transfer, a typical IVF cycle takes between six to eight weeks. This does not include pre-genetic testing, which can take an additional eight to twelve weeks.

It should also be noted that many individuals and couples find they require multiple rounds of IVF, so if your first cycle doesn’t go your way, don’t despair. A study of over 156,000 women undergoing IVF and fertility treatments found that the average live birth rate was roughly 65.3% across six cycles of IVF. In contrast, the live birth rate for women after their first IVF cycle was only 29.5%. Researchers found that the percent of live births increased for each IVF cycle up through nine cycles. [2]

It’s important to note that there are many variables, such as age and quality of eggs that can affect this timeline. Using donor eggs can offer a great alternative solution.

How effective is IVF?

Ultimately it depends, as unsatisfying an answer as that may be. There are many different variables that can impact the success of IVF, from age of the eggs to egg quality and number of eggs, to health of the intended carrier, whether you’re using frozen embryos, and more.

IVF success rates are typically most affected by age.

For instance, the same study mentioned above found that the live birth rate for women using their own eggs under the age of 35 with their first IVF cycle was roughly 32.3%. For women between 40-42 years old, the rate of live births dropped to 12.3%. However, the rate of live births increased alongside the number of IVF cycles for both age groups. [2]

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported similar findings in its 2014 report on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) after examining data from roughly 450 clinics and 200,000+ cycles of IVF. The CDC found that starting at around the age of 38, women typically begin to experience a steep decline in the quality of their eggs, which in turn affects their viability for pregnancy. [3]

In the CDC’s estimations, women ≤35 years old experienced a live birth rate of 37%. This rate drops every year, sitting around 19% for women between 38-40 years who are using their own eggs. From ages 41-42, that rate drops to 10%, then to roughly 1% by age 44. [3]

However, if you are a woman over the age of 40 seeking to carry your own child, this doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Using donor eggs can help bypass many of the quality issues that come with more mature eggs, so a woman seeking to be a mother can still experience the joy of carrying her child through their entry into the world.

If you’re choosing to use a surrogate carrier, then sourcing healthy, high quality eggs from egg donors to use for IVF can be of great benefit.

So, is IVF right for me?

There is no doubt that IVF has led to many “miracle” babies and has supported thousands of successful pregnancies and deliveries around the world. So really, the decision to explore IVF is up to you. If you want a child, but have found yourself struggling — there’s no need to deprive yourself any longer.

Whether you’re a single woman looking to have a child on your own timeline, are members of the LGBTQ+ community, or have been struggling with fertility issues for months to years — you deserve to have the family you dream of.

If this sounds like you, reach out to us at IMA ART. We offer high-end luxury fertility concierge services to provide you with an exceptional and stress-free journey to parenthood, with access to the world’s leading experts in fertility.


Pattern background of the flower of life
Pattern background of the flower of life
Pattern background of the flower of life

Ready to become parents - let IMA ART help you

Get in touch with our luxury fertility concierge team today.

Interested in becoming a surrogate?

Get in touch with our luxury fertility concierge team today

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