IVF explained

content supplied by NHS Choices

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is the best treatment for certain kinds of fertility problems. But it can be demanding and doesn't always result in pregnancy.

If you’re about to start on a course of IVF or if you’re experiencing fertility problems and are interested in the treatments available to you, find out as much as you can.

Knowing what to expect and the problems you face can make this difficult process easier to manage.

What is it?

When a couple conceives naturally, sperm from the man and the egg from the woman meet in the woman’s fallopian tubes. These are the tubes that lead between the ovaries and the womb (uterus). One sperm penetrates the egg and fertilises it.

In IVF, this process of fertilisation happens outside the woman’s body. Here, a woman’s eggs are surgically removed and fertilised in a laboratory using a sperm sample (pictured). Next, the fertilised egg, called an embryo, is surgically implanted into the uterus of the woman with the intention of causing pregnancy.

Typically, this occurs as follows:

Two to three weeks after embryo transfer, an ultrasound scan is used to find out if the woman is pregnant.

Risks

There are risks involved in IVF treatment. These include:

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