Posts for: March, 2017
More couples are turning to IVF (in vitro fertilization) to conceive children than ever before. According to theSociety for Assisted Reproductive Technology, as many as 1.5% of all children born in the United States are the result of in vitro fertilization. Across the country, OBGYNs are delivering over 60,000 babies conceived through IVF since 2012. As technology improves and the average age of new parents increases from previous generations, more and more would-be parents are relying on the procedure to start or add to their families.
How Does IVF Work?
The first step is usually to schedule a comprehensive exam and check up with an OBGYN. There are several steps to the process once a couple is determined to be a good candidate for conception through IVF. In vitro fertilization works by retrieving mature eggs from the ovaries, and fertilizing them with the sperm in a lab. Once the egg has been fertilized successfully, it is then implanted into the uterus. Because the causes for infertility are complex and vary from person to person, there are several variables to IVF treatment. In addition to using their own eggs and sperm, couples may also rely on donor eggs or sperm, or the use of a gestational carrier who carries the embryo to term and gives birth to the baby for the IVF client.
How Long Does the IVF Process Take?
The duration of one IVF cycle from retrieval of the eggs to fertilization and implantation generally takes about two weeks. It is difficult to predict whether an individual IVF cycle will be successful, and multiple cycles are often necessary.
Who is a Good Candidate for IVF?
The causes for infertility can be complex, and vary from person to person. Candidates for IVF are typically in good general health, with unsuccessful attempts to conceive for at least a year. In vitro fertilization can be expensive and may require multiple cycles to produce a viable pregnancy. An OBGYN might also recommend IVF in certain situations where fertility may be compromised due to:
- Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- Problems with ovulation
- Sperm abnormalities or low motility
- Genetic disorders
- Egg/embryo preservation for women undergoing cancer treatment that can compromise fertility and egg viability
Cycle monitoring is a method used by OBGYNs and fertility specialists to map out a woman's monthly menstrual cycle, in order to determine when ovulation is most likely to occur. Every woman has what is known as a fertile window; the days leading up to and including ovulation. This is the phase of the menstrual cycle when a woman is most likely to get pregnant. Because every woman's cycle is different, with many women experiencing irregular periods which can make it harder to predict ovulation, cycle monitoring is useful for couples trying to conceive, either naturally or with the aid of IVI (Intravaginal insemination) or IVF (Invitro fertilization).
Ovulation and the Menstrual Cycle
A typical menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days, but varies from woman to woman. Ovulation is the monthly process where an egg is released for fertilization by the sperm, and it is the only point in the menstrual cycle when conception is possible. Healthy sperm generally remain viable for up to five days, which is factored into the fertile window when calculating a fertility chart and menstrual cycle for a woman actively trying to conceive.
Many women are unaware of their ovulation schedule, and many myths abound about the length and duration of the fertile window. Because menstrual cycles can vary greatly from one woman to the next, a consultation with an OBGYN can help women determine their ovulation schedule once they have decided they are ready to become pregnant.
Determining Ovulation and the Fertility Cycle
The first step in cycle monitoring is measuring the basal body temperature. Although the variations in temperature can be slight, and OBGYNs have found the effectiveness of basal body temperature measurements in predicting ovulation to be inconclusive, it is still considered a basic step in charting fertility. During ovulation, the body releases elevated levels of the hormone progesterone, which can cause slight fluctuations in temperature. During ovulation, the cervix produces elevated levels of mucus designed to help the sperm make its way to the egg for fertilization. Monitoring mucus levels can help to predict ovulation. The mucus becomes more elastic, clear (resembling the texture and consistency of egg whites) during the fertile window.
The range varies from woman to woman, but days 1-5 are the beginning of the cycle, when menstruation occurs. Days 6-9 are dry with no visible mucus. From days 10-12 the mucus is sticky and thicker than during the fertile window. At the end of the fertile window the mucus becomes thick and sticky again, followed by dryness until the cycle begins again the following month. Measuring the cycle for a few months can help to determine both the duration and ovulation dates for each woman.