How Does IVF Work?

December 28, 2018

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) has changed – and created – countless lives since the first baby was born using this fertility treatment in 1978. And 40 years and several million babies later, experts have learned more and improved the techniques used. Most of us have heard the term ‘IVF’ and know it is a method of conceiving a baby outside of the womb. But most people unaffected by fertility issues don’t know the details of how it works or who would benefit from IVF.


To answer the question ‘how does IVF work,’ we don’t have to get very technical. Simply put, the egg and the sperm join in a lab, and one or two of the embryos created are placed in the womb. The woman choosing IVF does have a lot of preparation to undergo before doctors can retrieve eggs to fertilize. She needs to take fertility medication to stimulate her ovaries, so they produce plenty of eggs for the process.

The medication causes her ovaries to produce multiple follicles, each of which should contain an egg. The specialist will monitor her closely during this stage to ensure that her ovaries are responding correctly to the medication she is taking.

When the follicles are ready, her doctor will give her an injection to stimulate ovulation. Then the eggs are retrieved in a quick procedure done under conscious sedation – a procedure in which the patient is sedated enough to not feel pain but awake enough to not require intubation and respiratory assistance. While this is being done, the male provides a sample of sperm. The egg and sperm are joined in the lab, and then monitored as embryos develop. On the fifth day, one or two embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus.

What Influences IVF Success?

The next question after ‘how does IVF work’ is usually ‘how well does IVF work.’ This one is more complicated because so many different factors influence how likely it is that the woman will have a successful pregnancy. The good news is that at ReproMed Clinics, we have a success rate of nearly 50% for women under 39, and 31% for women age 39 and up. Yes, the woman’s age is generally the most significant factor. But it is not the only thing that influences how IVF works.

The most important factor for success (other than age) is smoking. It is known that smoking women require twice as many treatments to achieve a pregnancy, miscarry twice as much, and have 15 more chances of having an ectopic pregnancy (a non-viable pregnancy outside the uterus).

Both partners’ overall health influences chances. For the mother, being o Obese (BMI higher than 30) or underweight can harm the chances of a successful pregnancy. The time for focusing on achieving a healthy weight is before you begin the IVF process.

It has been found that there is more infertility in couples with meat and carbohydrate-based diet as opposed to couples following a Mediterranean diet, so a healthy lifestyle is generally advised. The effect of alcohol is more controversial, but the NICE guidelines generally recommend for men not to exceed 3-4 units per day and since alcohol can harm a developing baby, the recommendation for women is not to drink more than 2-4 units per week.

Developing healthy habits such as avoiding alcohol, eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and walking daily will help.

Difficulty conceiving can leave couples feeling like they have no control over their family planning. But the more you know about how IVF works and what steps you can take to increase your chances of a successful pregnancy, the more control you gain in the process.

Find more information on IVF here or get in touch with us today.

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