In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is a complicated process and arguably one of the most well-known fertility treatments. You’ve likely at least heard the term before, but you still might not know much about what it is. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, IVF is the “joining of a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm in a laboratory dish,” which can help couples conceive.
You may also know that it takes a lot of time and is quite expensive. But there’s more than you need to know if you’re considering the process for yourself.
IVF might not be the right fertility treatment for you to try
Though you might know more about IVF than any other fertility treatment, it may not be the right one to help you conceive.
“There’s a lot of other fertility treatments other than IVF out there, and if it’s appropriate, the physician should be going through some of those as well,” Dr. Joshua Kapfhamer, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist with the Center for Reproductive Medicine, told INSIDER. “Now there are cases where IVF is very clearly indicated and may be necessary, but there are also other cases where less aggressive interventions, if you will, may be very appropriate.”
The egg retrieval process won’t leave you laid up for days and days
Although you might fear that the egg retrieval process will be an invasive procedure or something that will require you to spend a lot of time at home afterward to heal, that’s not actually the case.
“It is a very minimally invasive procedure, which does not require general anesthesia,” Dr. Roohi Jeelani, FACOG, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, told INSIDER. “You can resume work the next day.”
There are generally a few steps to an IVF cycle
An IVF cycle has a number of steps. The first step is ovarian stimulation, according to Dr. Tarun Jain, MD, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist with Northwestern Medicine. During that step, you take medications to boost egg growth. Next is the egg retrieval. After that comes fertilization.
Following fertilization, your doctor will transfer embryos to your uterus (or your partner’s), and Jain noted that there are guidelines to help determine how many to transfer. And from egg retrieval on, you’ll also receive additional hormone supplementation and continue “[until] nine to 11 weeks of pregnancy,” Jain explained.
There’s no guarantee that IVF will work
Unfortunately, even if everything seems to be going according to plan and even if you’re healthy, that doesn’t necessarily mean that IVF will be successful, Kapfhamer said. And, unfortunately, that’s oftentimes a misconception related to IVF.
There are a number of different factors that determine if IVF may be successful
If an IVF treatment isn’t successful, it’s not necessarily due to just one reason.
“There’s a lot of factors that affect success rates,” Kapfhamer said. “The biggest two are probably age, the age of the woman specifically. Male age plays a role, but to a lesser extent than the female partner age for couples in which there is a male and female partner. So age is a big one and then the reason for infertility plays a role as well. So those two things are going to be important to consider. But even if everything is normal in a young, healthy couple, that doesn’t guarantee that a pregnancy will result from IVF.”
Additionally, if you have certain medical conditions or diagnoses, you may not have as much success with IVF either, which is why it’s important to talk to your doctor about the entirety of your medical history.
If you do IVF once and it works, it doesn’t mean that that it’s only way you can conceive moving forward
Just because IVF works for you once, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that will be the only way you’ll be able to conceive in the future. “There is always a chance you can get pregnant on your own,” Jeelani said.
You won’t necessarily have multiples if IVF succeeds
IVF has a reputation for resulting in multiples, but that’s far from a certainty.
“The patient decides how many embryos to place during a transfer,” Dr. Juan Alvarez, a reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois, told INSIDER. “Physicians guide patients in the process and are always working towards the goal of a singleton pregnancy. It is advised to place one embryo at a time, and in some cases with prior unsuccessful cycles, two embryos are transferred.”