5 Things to Know About IVF
Published March 2020
Treatment and Hope for Infertility
One in eight women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. Fortunately, women and men now have many innovative options for a wide range of conditions related to infertility. In vitro fertilization (IVF) may be one option to discuss with your fertility specialist. Single women as well as LGBTQ couples who may not have an infertility diagnosis may also benefit from IVF. Additionally, single men may benefit from IVF by working with an egg donor and gestational carrier.
IVF involves the use of medication for approximately eight to 12 days to help a woman’s eggs grow. The eggs are retrieved in a quick office procedure. Those eggs are fertilized with sperm, and one or more embryos are transferred back into the uterus of the woman who will be carrying the pregnancy. The remaining viable embryos can be frozen for future use.
Members of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Fertility and Reproductive Medicine team share some things you should know about the IVF journey.
IVF is highly effective.
First developed in the 1970s, IVF continues to be one of the most advanced and highly effective options for fertility treatment. Many factors can influence an individual's or a couple’s chance for success, including the age of the woman whose eggs are being used for treatment and the reason for the fertility treatment. Northwestern Medicine treats some of the most difficult cases of infertility, with outcomes that are better than the national average.
John Xingqi Zhang, PhD, Northwestern Medicine IVF lab director for more than two decades, says, “I have witnessed the advances in this area over the past 30 years because of the technology advancement, as well as the experience and knowledge that we gain from our work. We are able to increase our success rate significantly.”
As scientific understanding and technology evolve, the IVF process continues to improve. “We use the most advanced technology available in the field,” says Ermira Kape, embryologist at Northwestern Medicine. “And we provide that to all our patients.” Technology has improved everything from the conditions in which embryos are growing to security and safety throughout the process.
IVF may be an option even for complex cases.
Infertility is equally associated with male and female causes, and IVF may also be an option even if you have a complex medical condition. Some common causes of infertility include:
- Fallopian tube damage that prevents sperm from getting to the egg properly.
- Ovulation disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can cause a hormone imbalance that impacts ovulation.
- Premature ovarian failure, which is caused by an autoimmune response or premature loss of eggs.
- Endometriosis, which occurs when the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows elsewhere, such as in the ovaries, fallopian tube and other pelvic spaces.
- Uterine fibroids, which are benign tumors that grow in the muscle of the uterus and are a common finding in women of reproductive age.
- Male factor infertility.
Genetic screening of embryos can also play an integral role in your IVF journey. “Genetic screening can help ensure patients who are pregnant have a healthy baby,” says Dr. Zhang.
Your journey will be unique to you.
Medication types and dosages, and your treatment options will be based on your individual medical situation and needs. Before you start, you’ll undergo preliminary medical testing to assess for any fertility related concerns. You and your physician are a team and will work together to create a treatment plan that works for you.
It’s important to understand the process before you decide it’s right for you. Choose a fertility specialist who will answer your questions and provide the support you deserve. If you decide to pursue IVF, seek emotional support from a friend, family member or therapist.
Your care team is here to support you.
Northwestern Medicine Center for Fertility and Reproductive Medicine offers a compassionate team of highly trained physicians, nurses, sonographers, embryologists, psychologists and other professionals who work together to provide coordinated care and support you on every step of your journey. They are here to help you through the process.
A Blend of Science and Compassion
“There is a lot of science and technology involved in growing families, but there's also a lot of compassion,” says Kape. “Because at the end of the day, these are people, and these are their future children. We're very mindful of that.”