Monday, February 28, 2011

IVF means "I'm Very Frightened..."?

I did a little research this week on In Vitro Fertilization to try to understand what women with fertility problems have to endure.

So, what exactly is IVF? IVF is basically when an egg is fertilized out of the womb, in a laboratory dish. The culture in the dish enables the embryo to develop in vitro (literally meaning "in glass"). Much like any other egg being coaxed into "hatching," the embryo is incubated and monitored while it's cells divide. Once they have divided into about 8 cells about 5 days later, they are implanted into the uterus. Up to 4 embryos are usually implanted at one time to avoid producing octomoms. Simple enough right? What is not so simple is the reasons why couples may have to choose IVF...

The majority of average couples are able to conceive within a year of unprotected sex. I can imagine that even a few months of failure can be pretty frustrating and stressful for couples trying to start a family. There are multiple reasons why women may need a little boost to get pregnant when the old fashioned way alone isn't working out. Women with endometriosis, ovulation problems, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, or an abnormal uterus may all have trouble conceiving a child due to their anatomy. Considering the other team member, women with a partner who has a low sperm count or sperm motility problems (AKA they aren't very good swimmers) may also need IVF to conceive because the man's sperm die before they can reach the egg. Not all women who undergo IVF need to use donor eggs. Just as I will need to take ovulation stimulating hormones to produce multiple mature eggs, women utilizing the IVF procedure take hormones to produce as many eggs as they can. This ensures that they will have a higher chance of producing a healthy embryo to implant after it is fertilized in the lab.

I hope my ability to write about this subject (or lack thereof)didn't confuse you even more. Bottom line - IVF is pretty stressful for couples on multiple levels. The costs, both financially and emotionally, are pretty intense (more than I could ever imagine). I've heard stories about women who are able to conceive naturally after IVF failures, and even adoption. Maybe their bodies just needed a little kick start, or worked a little better once the pressure was off? Who knows. I'm going to try to send mine off with a little love and hope that the couple gets lucky the first time!

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