Microscopic Image of Embryo Created During In Vitro Fertilization
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) involves the combining of the egg and the sperm in the laboratory. A woman uses medications to produce multiple eggs. Those eggs are removed by a single, small surgical procedure performed in the office, and the eggs and sperm are mixed in the laboratory to create an early pregnancy (embryo). That embryo is placed into the woman’s uterus in a simple office procedure.
Although this technology was originally developed for women with blockages in their fallopian tubes, it is now used for a variety of reasons. It is still the only treatment which allows your doctor to directly see the quality of your eggs, the fertilization of your eggs and sperm, and the quality of the embryos produced. It is also the treatment with the highest overall pregnancy rates.
Intracytoplamic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
Microscopic Image showing Injection of Sperm into an Egg
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) involves a separate procedure to directly place a sperm in an egg during an IVF cycle. Couples may require this procedure if the male partner has severely abnormal sperm characteristics, if the couple previously underwent IVF with poor fertilization rates, or if the outer covering of the eggs is very thick.
Some patients may need to have this procedure performed. Other couples may elect to have ICSI performed if there is less than adequate fertilization in a previous IVF cycle. Other couples may utilize this procedure if they are having their embryos tested for genetic abnormalities.
Blastocyst Culture and Transfer
Microscopic Image of a Blastocyst Stage Embryo Hatching on its Own
After the egg retrieval, embryos are generally placed in the uterus between 2-6 days later. Embryos that grow to a more advanced stage (Day 5-6, Blastocyst Stage) may have improved pregnancy rates. You should ask your physician if you are a good candidate or if you would benefit from culturing (growing) embryos to the blastocyst stage.
Not all couples will produce blastocyst embryos. Just because an embryo grows well to the blastocyst stage does not guarantee it will produce a viable pregnancy. Many good embryos which produce a healthy pregnancy are transferred prior to this stage. The decision to grow embryos to the blastocyst stage is carefully considered on an individual basis.