What does IVF stand for in medical terms? IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilisation. This is a well-known method of assisted reproduction whereby a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg are combined in a laboratory dish, in the hope’s that fertilisation will occur. IVF is one of the world’s most well-known medical procedures.
However, even though it is a familiar concept, we don’t always know what it means.
What is in vitro fertilisation? Let’s break down the IVF definition in more detail:
In Vitro – This is the Latin meaning for ‘In Glass’ and is a reference to the glass test tubes that were used in laboratories at the beginning of IVF treatments.
Fertilisation – This is the process where the sperm and egg meet and successfully create an embryo.
While the meaning of IVF can be set out very simply, as we have done above, it’s wider implications are far more significant. IVF holds great promise for people struggling with infertility or wanting to have a child of their own in situations where that is not necessarily possible without medical intervention.
Now that you know what IVF stands for, what does it mean? What IVF means is a new chance for individuals to see their dreams of becoming parents become a reality. Here at Wessex Fertility, we are proud to provide exceptional fertility treatments tailored to the individual. We are proud of the fact that we work with you to find the best treatments for you. In this sense, what does IVF mean to you? It could mean that you finally get your dream of having a family.
Infertility in the UK is a common problem, affecting 1 in 7 couples. Infertility is estimated to effect on average 3.5 million people. However, with the help of IVF fertility treatments, millions of men and women have been able to realise their dreams of having a family.
In the UK, IVF treatments are carried out almost daily and almost 60,000 fertility treatments are performed around the country every year in licensed fertility clinics. Since 1991 the success rates of IVF have risen exponentially, going from 14% to 26.5% in 2014. The highest success figure for IVF was reached for women under 32 years old, 32.5% of whom successfully completed IVF fertility treatment.
As Susan Seenan (chief executive of leading patient charity Infertility Network UK) says, “It is heart-warming and reassuring to hear that a quarter of a million IVF babies have now been born in the UK.” The highest chance of success if generally seen in women under the age of 35.
Primary infertility is when a couple have not had a pregnancy. Secondary infertility is when a couple have had a pregnancy and are struggling to become pregnant again.
There are many causes of infertility, but up to 25% are unexplained. However, whatever the cause for infertility, IVF treatments may provide couples with a good chance of becoming pregnant and having a child.
If you or your partner are considering undertaking IVF, it is important you understand the treatment process and how it works. What does IVF entail? Below we have outlined the IVF process in 5 simple steps.
The first step in any IVF treatment is ovarian stimulation. This consists of daily injections that cause the ovaries to produce more eggs, usually only one will be produced in a natural cycle.
Throughout the ovarian stimulation treatment, ultrasound scans measure the size of the follicles (egg sacs). Once the follicles have reached an adequate size, an injection of a hormone called hCG is administered. Thirty-six hours later, the egg retrieval takes place. This procedure is carried out in an operating theatre with the patient under sedation, so that they do not experience any discomfort.
The collected eggs are mixed with sperm (or sperm is injected into the egg in a process called ICSI). Fertilisation takes place overnight in the incubator. The embryos are then monitored throughout development.
Implanting the embryo/s into the woman’s uterus involves inserting them through the cervix (neck of the womb) using a specially designed cannula. . Once inserted into the uterus, implantation should occur, and pregnancy begin.
If there are surplus good quality embryos not transferred, these may be frozen for future use. Not all cycles will result in enough good quality embryos for freezing.
So far, we have answered ‘What is IVF?’. However, as medical research delves deeper and new fertility treatment techniques are developed, the meaning of IVF, including other fertility treatments, has come to stand for so much more.
It is no longer just one single treatment, used for a single purpose, but it is now a series of possibilities addressing a whole range of infertility problems. Some refinements of the IVF procedure are as follows:
ICSI is an assisted reproduction technique which can be included as part of IVF treatment. ICSI enables pregnancy to be achieved for couples who have received a diagnosis of severe male factor infertility.
ICSI treatment involves the male partner providing a semen sample. The best spermatozoa are then placed in a tiny pipette and injected directly into the woman’s uterus. In this way, it greatly increase the chances of successful fertilisation.
This treatment is a combination of IVF and PGS (pre-implantation genetic screening). Chromosomal abnormality is one of the most common causes of unsuccessful IVF treatment.
It is now possible to biopsy embryos to see if they have a normal number of chromosomes. By choosing only embryos with a normal chromosome number, the change of success increases.
Couples struggling with infertility, including male infertility factors, benefit from IVF and its developments. IVF treatments can be transformative for people struggling to have a family of their own. These include:
IVF treatments make it possible for many same-sex couples to have a family of their own and ‘share parenthood’. In the case where two women want to have a family, the IVF procedure involves one women’s eggs being fertilised by anonymous sperm donation, and her female partner having the resulting embryos implanted in her uterus. In this way, both partners are active participators in the process. One of them will be the genetic mother of their baby and the other will be the gestational mother.
The preservation of fertility is a helpful option for women about to undergo treatment for cancer or other medical treatments or interventions that could compromise their fertility. Preserving fertility is also an option for women who decide to postpone motherhood for various reasons, or because their current circumstances currently prevent them from having a child.
In cases where there is a medical or physical reason why a woman’s own eggs cannot be used, IVF treatment does offer egg donation as a solution. This is the process whereby the female patient has donor eggs combined with spermatozoa from her partner or a donor to produce embryos, which are then implanted in her uterus.
As such, egg donation makes it possible for women who are not able to conceive children naturally, to have a family.
Sometimes, couples need reassurance that their future children will not inherit certain family genes. This is where Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis is helpful. This is the diagnosis of any genetic or chromosomal alterations in an embryo that occur before implantation. Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis helps ensure that any children subsequently born through IVF are born free of any hereditary diseases.
If you have any questions about IVF or any of the other fertility treatments we offer, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We can even arrange an informal visit to the clinic so that you can meet our team and see our clinic first-hand.
We want you to get the most out of your fertility treatment and the first step is understanding the fertility treatments we offer, how they work, and what suits you.
Many of us plan to have a family one day, and for most people conception will occur naturally. For others, a little help may be needed along the way. Whatever your fertility struggles or personal circumstances, at Wessex Fertility, we are here to help.
Our team of fertility specialists will work closely with you, tailoring a fertility treatment plant that suits your personal circumstances and medical requirements. We work hard to get to the heart of the problem and will always treat you as an individual.
IVF makes having a family of your own possible. We know how difficult and hard trying for a family can be. What should be an exciting time may be filled with worry and fear. But with the help of Wessex Fertility and our IVF treatments, we can help you have the family you’ve always dreamed of.