Eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory dish before being placed in the woman’s womb.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF), which literally means "fertilisation in glass", refers to assisted reproduction that takes place outside of the body. IVF was originally developed to treat infertility caused by blocked or damaged fallopian tubes. However, IVF is currently used to treat a variety of fertility problems that have not responded to other medical and surgical interventions.
Eggs and sperm are collected and fertilised to form an embryo, which is then transferred to the uterus to continue, hopefully, to pregnancy.
During the IVF process, eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilised with sperm in the laboratory. The fertilised egg (embryo) is later placed in the woman’s womb.
IVF is a method that has helped many women to have babies since 1978 when it was first used successfully. All centres that offer IVF are licensed and monitored by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). 36,861 women had IVF treatment in 2007.
IVF involves the collection of eggs and sperm that are mixed outside the woman's body in a culture dish. Any eggs that fertilise are called embryos and these are allowed to grow for two to five days and then the best one or two are transferred into the woman's womb. If the treatment is successful, an embryo will implant in the lining of the womb. The woman will then be pregnant, as if she had conceived naturally.
IVF can be performed with the single egg that is produced naturally each month, but this is inefficient and has low success rates. Therefore, in the majority of treatment cycles, the woman undergoes stimulation of the ovaries with fertility hormones so that several eggs are obtained. This process is called superovulation.
The production of several embryos means that the best quality embryos can be replaced, thus improving success rates. It can also result in the production of “spare” embryos. Good quality spare embryos may be frozen to allow replacement at a later date without the need for hormone stimulation. This maximises the chance of pregnancy from one egg collection.
You may have been recommended IVF as your best treatment option if:
• you have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility
• your fallopian tubes are blocked
• you have been unsuccessful with other techniques like using fertility drugs or intrauterine insemination (IUI)
• there is a minor degree of male subfertility - more severe problems are treated with intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
IVF techniques can differ often depending on your individual circumstances.
What happens before we start treatment?
Fertility investigations will have been carried out in the fertility clinic prior to referral. These investigations may involve hormone tests during your menstrual cycle to ensure that you are able to produce eggs, tests to check that your womb is normal and semen analysis for your partner. Further investigations may be required and these will be fully discussed with you.
2) First appointment
If you decide you would like to explore the option of IVF in more detail, an appointment will be arranged with one of our doctors. At this visit the doctor will review your medical history and investigations to ensure that IVF is appropriate for you. The doctor will also explain what is involved in the treatment, what the chances of success are and the risks of treatment.
If you require further investigations, or you are not sure that IVF is the best option for you, a further appointment will be arranged before you continue with treatment. A counsellor is also available for further discussions if you wish.
3) Preconception programme
You may be referred to our pre conception programme prior to taking any medications to maximise your chances of success.
See our Preconception Programme.
4) Treatment phase
Your doctor will prescribe you medications to develop follicles in your ovaries. When you have a suitable number of developing eggs you will be asked to come into the clinic for an egg collection.
Your eggs will be collected from your ovaries in our treatment room and transferred to the embryologist in the IVF laboratory. Here they will be inseminated with your partner’s sperm. You will receive phone calls from the embryology team to let you know the quality and number of embryos you have. A few days later the best one or two embryos will be transferred back to your uterus.
5) After your treatment phase you may feel in limbo as you wait for your pregnancy test. We will support you through this period and beyond.
If your cycle has been successful, Complete will confirm your pregnancy with an early ultrasound scan.
The number of women receiving IVF continues to rise. In 2014, 52,288 women had a total of 67,708 cycles of IVF or ICSI.
A total of 14,057 pregnancies were reported as a result of IVF treatment which started in 2013 and a total of 14,206 pregnancies were reported as a result of IVF treatment which started in 2014.
Our 2015 results show that 48% of women under 35 years achieved a clinical pregnancy with IVF/ICSI.
See our success results.