In vitro literally translates to “in glass,” referring to the glass laboratory containers in which an in vitro fertilization (IVF) occurs. Although babies fertilized in vitro are commonly called “test tube babies” (mind you, this isn’t the most politically correct terminology), in vitro fertilization actually take place in a petri dish.
Today, a procedure performed in vitro simply means outside the body or living organism. The blastocyst/embryo is implanted inside the uterus after fertilization occurs.
IVF requires three things for success: healthy eggs, fertile sperm, and a uterus that can carry the pregnancy to term. IVF makes the birth of a child possible even when these variables aren’t provided by the people who will parent the child.
Benefits of IVF
Anyone can have a baby. In vitro fertilization makes it possible for nearly any individual or couple to have a baby, regardless of familial status or sexual orientation. Single women and men, gay and lesbian couples, and couples who’ve had a hard time conceiving have all used IVF as a way to have a child.
It addresses infertility issues. IVF was traditionally used to help both men and women address infertility issues. Women with missing, damaged, or blocked fallopian tubes were some of the first patients to carry successful IVFs. The egg is fertilized outside the female body and then placed inside the uterus for a more likely implantation.
Many men with both known and unexplained infertility issues have benefited from IVF, especially in combination with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). ICSI targets and extracts a single sperm from a sample and injects it into the egg’s cytoplasm for optimal fertilization rates.
In many cases, IVF combined with ICSI is the only way for men with a low sperm count to still be able to biologically father a child. Their only other options may be using donor sperm or adoption.
Testicular sperm aspiration can be performed on men who can’t ejaculate sperm, including those with irreversible vasectomies, testicular cancer survivors, and men with low or no sperm count, blockages, and other conditions.
It increases chances of conception. Both IVF and ICSI increase the chances of fertilization regardless of whether infertility is an issue or not. Many couples choose in vitro fertilization because it helps them conceive more quickly at a time that’s right for them.
It increases chances of a healthy pregnancy and child. Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is possible, allowing couples to identity chromosomal deficiencies in an embryo before is it implanted inside the uterus.
Have a baby when you want to: The availability of IVF means couples don’t have to try for years to get pregnant naturally. IVF gives couples more control over factors such as spacing out children, being pregnant at the right time, and even when a child will be born.
Additional benefits: Other benefits of IVF include factors that simply give parents more options when it comes to having children:
- Frozen eggs and/or sperm can be used, giving people the ability to save their healthy eggs or sperm for future use.
- IVF makes pregnancy after menopause possible because the uterus can still carry a pregnancy to term after a woman’s reproductive cycles have ended.
- An Egg Donor can be used in cases where the woman has a low ovarian reserve or have eggs of poor quality. In other cases it would be a requirement – as for a gay couple wishing to start a family.
- The option of using a Gestational Surrogate can be based on a number of different factors but provides the parent with the option of somebody else carrying the pregnancy for you.
IVF Success Rates
The success rates of in vitro fertilization are another benefit and reason to choose IVF. IVF is successful in one of two capacities: the rate of successful pregnancies and the rate of live births.
Rate of pregnancy: The rate of pregnancy for IVF is determined by embryos which are successfully implanted in the uterus and develop a heartbeat. The national rates of pregnancy in 2010 reported by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) were 47.7% for women under 35; 38.8% in women ages 35-37, and for women ages 38-40 29.9%. Pregnancy rates drastically decreases when passing the age of 40. The national pregnancy rate for women of ages 41-42 is 20.1% and drops down to 8.9% when older then 42.
Rate of live births: Live births resulting from IVF are determined by the number of successful pregnancies that are carried to term and result in the delivery of a live baby, so it does not account for miscarriage or stillbirth, and the live birth of multiples are still counted as one birth. Live birth rates reported by SART for IVF pregnancies in the United States in 2010 are 41.7% in women under 35; 31.9% in women ages 35–37; 22.1% in women ages 38–40; 12.5% in women ages 41-40 and 4.1% in woman above 42.
As seen by the numbers presented above, age is a vital factor in IVF. When using an Egg Donor and/or a Gestational Surrogate the rates will reflect an increase in pregnancy rates. Only your fertility specialist will be able to determine which treatment is best for you, but in vitro fertilization has brought successful pregnancies to many happy parents around the world, and is an important option to consider for those struggling with fertility issues.