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In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common and most effective type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) to help women become pregnant.

The IVF procedure involves fertilizing an egg outside the body, in a laboratory dish, and then implanting it in a woman’s uterus.

In a normal pregnancy a male sperm penetrates a woman’s egg and fertilizes it inside her body after ovulation – when a mature egg has been released from the ovaries. The fertilized egg (now an embryo) then attaches itself to the wall of the uterus (womb) and begins developing into a baby. This is known as natural conception.

However, some women are unable to become pregnant through natural or unassisted conception and have to undergo fertility treatment to become pregnant.

IVF – The procedure

IVF techniques may differ depending on the clinic, but usually involves the following steps:

Ovulation Induction- Fertility drugs containing the fertility hormone FSH, HMG, are administered to the woman. FSH improves the egg”s quality and quantity too. . Vaginal ultrasound scans can monitor the process in the ovaries.

Retrieving the eggs- The eggs are collected through a minor surgical procedure known as “follicular aspiration” under general anesthesia. A very thin needle is inserted through the vagina and into an ovary. The needle – which is connected to a suction device – sucks the eggs out. This process is repeated for each ovary.

Insemination and fertilization- The eggs that have been collected are placed together with male sperm and kept in a environmentally controlled chamber. After a few hours the sperm eventually enters the egg. However, sometimes the sperm is directly injected into the egg, this is known as an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

Embryo transfer- Sometimes more than one embryo is placed in the womb. It is important that the doctor and the couple wishing to have a child discuss how many embryos should be transferred. Generally speaking, doctors should only transfer more than one embryo if there are no ideal embryos available.

The transfer is done via a thin tube (catheter), which goes up the vagina and into the womb, successfully transferring the embryo. When the embryo sticks to the lining of the womb healthy embryo growth begins.

BHCG- After 2 or 3 weeks of embryo transfer, blood test is advice to confirm the pregnancy.

ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection)

A test-tube fertilization procedure in which a sperm is injected directly into an egg to achieve fertilization. ICSI is done for male infertility.

Babies conceived by ICSI have no more major birth defects or delays in development than children conceived by natural means.

ICSI is very similar to conventional IVF in which gametes (eggs and sperm) are collected from each partner. The difference between the two procedures is the method of achieving fertilization.

ICSI refers to the laboratory procedure where a single sperm is picked up with a fine glass needle and is injected directly into each egg .Embryologist select the sperm having best DNA. Very few sperm are required and the ability of the sperm to penetrate the egg is no longer important as this has been assisted by the ICSI technique. ICSI does not guarantee that fertilization will occur as the normal cellular events of fertilization still need to occur once the sperm has been placed in the egg.