In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is for couples who have difficulty conceiving, in the United States this is approximately 1 in every 8 couples. This includes couples attempting to conceive for their first or second time. This year almost 3 students in every kindergarten class will have been conceived via IVF.
The process goes a bit like this:
First, the conceiving mother takes medication over multiple doctor visits to stimulate her ovaries to produce eggs. These eggs are retrieved and placed in an IVF dish where sperm is introduced and the eggs are fertilized. Following development over 3-5 days the doctor examines the embryos through a microscope and picks, to the best of their experience, the healthiest embryos for transfer back into the mother.
What are the odds of success?
Depending on the age of the mother and the underlying medical condition success rates will vary however across all attempts the success rate is around 30% often requiring couples to undergo multiple rounds of treatment for even a hope of becoming pregnant.
So why isn’t IVF getting better?
While some advancements have been made in recent years, doctors still decide which embryo to pick in much the same way they always have - by looking at them through a microscope. As it turns out, it’s hard to tell if an embryo is healthy just by looking at it.
For couples under 35 single embryo transfer results in the highest chance of full term and healthy weight infants however given the uncertainty of embryo quality often multiple embryos are transferred to improve the odds of success.