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What is IVF?

Infertility is when a couple cannot conceive (get pregnant) despite having regular unprotected sex.

Normally, an egg and sperm are fertilized inside a woman’s body. If the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the womb and continues to grow, a baby is born about 9 months later. This process is called natural or unassisted conception.


IVF is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART). This means special medical techniques are used to help a woman become pregnant. IVF has been successfully used since 1978. It is most often tried when other, less expensive fertility techniques have failed.

What Causes of Infertility Can IVF Treat?

When it comes to infertility, IVF may be an option if you or your partner has been diagnosed with:

  • Endometriosis
  • Low sperm counts
  • Problems with the uterus or fallopian tubes
  • Problems with ovulation
  • Antibody problems that harm sperm or eggs
  • The inability of sperm to penetrate or survive in the cervical mucus
  • An unexplained fertility problem

IVF is never the first step in the treatment of infertility. Instead, it’s reserved for cases in which other methods such as fertility drugs, surgery, and artificial insemination haven’t worked



There are five basic steps to IVF:


Step 1: Stimulation, also called super ovulation
Medicines, commonly called fertility drugs, are given to the woman to boost her egg production. Normally, a woman produces one egg per month. Fertility drugs tell the ovaries to produce several eggs. During this step, the woman will have regular trans-vaginal ultrasounds to examine the ovaries and blood tests to check hormone levels.
Step 2: Egg retrieval
Step 3: Insemination and Fertilization
Step 4:
Step 5: Embryo transfer

After the Procedure

Statistics vary from one clinic to another and must be carefully interpreted.

  • Pregnancy rates reflect the number of women who became pregnant after IVF. But not all pregnancies result in a live birth.
  • Live birth rates reflect the number of women who give birth to a living child.

According to the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART), the approximate chance of giving birth to a live baby after IVF is as follows:

  • 41-43% for women under age 35
  • 33-36% for women age 35 – 37
  • 23-27% for women ages 38 – 40
  • 13-18% for women over age 41