What is In Vitro Fertilization?

Sometimes the most complicated things can be explained quite simply:  IVF is the collection of mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries and fertilization by sperm in a lab- in vitro literally means “in glass”. Then the fertilized egg (embryo) or eggs are implanted in the uterus of the mother or a gestational carrier.  Of course, it’s a little more complicated than something that can be distilled into two sentences, but the general framework is almost always the same.

Fun Facts

I’m a collector of fun facts and random trivia and my work life is no exception to this habit. 

  1. IVF isn’t actually performed in a test tube but in a petri dish.
  2. There is anectodal evidence that fertilization rate is higher in eggs subjected to music.
  3. The first donor egg pregnancy was in 1983 in Australia.
  4. Infertility isn’t as uncommon as you would think. Infertility affects about 12% of the population.
  5. You are more likely to have identical twins from a multiple embryo transfer. The reasons why are still being researched, but experts think it’s due to the single prick required for fertilization and/or the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) where a single cell is removed for anlysis.
  6. Quadruplets and higher-orders of multiples are rarely the result of IVF. Most higher numbers of multiples, from quadruplets on up, occur more often as the result of a fertility treatment called intrauterine insemination (IUI).
  7. Being famous doesn’t make you more fertile. If you are using infertility treatments, including IVF, you are sharing the boat with the likes of Celine Dion, Matthew Broderick, Mariah Carey, Courtney Cox, Julia Roberts, Angela Bassett, Hugh Jackman, Ricky Martin, Jamie Leigh Curtis and Christopher Guest, Brooke Shields, Sharon Stone, Jane Seymore, Angela Bassett, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Kelsey Grammer, Nicole Kidman, Kirstey Alley and Sherri Shepherd.

All silliness aside, there’s likely a serious reason that you landed here and my best guess is that you are having trouble trying to conceive a child.  Infertility is heartbreaking to deal with and many people turn to IVF to assist.

The child is born with his parents’ DNA

Through the wonder of IVF, you can take the egg from the mother (or a donor)and fertilize it with the dad’s sperm (or donated sperm), then transfer the embryo into the uterus of a gestational carrier.   The gestational carrier then carries the baby to term for the intended parents. A gestational carrier has no biological relation to the child.

A gestational carrier is not the same as a surrogate

More fun facts and semantics!  A traditional surrogate becomes pregnant with her own egg and the father’s sperm—via IVF or intrauterine insemination (in which sperm are placed directly in the uterus)—and she is the child’s biological mother. This arrangement isn’t very common any more.  Confusion sometimes comes in when terms are mixed together or used interchangeably, such as referring to a woman as a gestational surrogate.  The most important distinction comes from whether the woman is biologically the mother of the child she is carrying.

Reasons a couple might need a carrier

The woman may have suffered the heartbreak of recurrent miscarriages or tried several cycles of IVF that were unsuccessful, or she could have a health problem that makes pregnancy dangerous.  Homosexual male couples who are using donor eggs also turn to a gestational carrier to have a child.

Signs of Conception?

Once the embryo transfer occurs the old fashioned wait to confirm pregnancy can be a long ten days.  Even with a fertilized and healthy embryo and the magic of science the agonizing wait is still the same.  The best you can do is to think sticky thoughts for the embryo and sweet dreams of pink lines!