In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a type of assisted reproductive technology where an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are placed in the uterus to develop further. At times, there can be instances of IVF failure, where the embryo does not implant successfully or the pregnancy does not progress as expected.
The Process for IVF Transfers
Stimulation of the Ovaries
Ovarian stimulation aims to boost the woman’s egg production to increase the chances of successful fertilization and implantation. This process can be facilitated by administering gonadotropin injections containing follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). The stimulation phase may last about 14 days. During this time, progress is closely monitored through blood tests and ultrasound scans. These checks help determine the number of developing follicles, the growth rate, and when the eggs are ready for retrieval.
Fertility experts perform egg retrieval after ovarian stimulation and once the eggs have matured. The procedure, also known as follicular aspiration, involves using ultrasound guidance to direct a thin needle through the vagina and into the ovaries. The needle aspirates, or withdraws, the fluid and eggs from each follicle. This process can occur under anesthesia for the patient’s comfort. The retrieved eggs are then immediately examined in the laboratory to assess their quality and maturity.
Insemination and Fertilization
Insemination involves combining the retrieved eggs with sperm in a laboratory dish to facilitate natural fertilization. The fertilization takes some hours, during which the eggs and sperm are kept in an incubator. This mimics the conditions inside the human body. The fertilized eggs, now embryos, are monitored for growth and development in the lab over the next few days.
Embryo transfer involves using a catheter to deliver the embryos into the uterus through the cervix, a process guided by ultrasound for precision. The procedure can be painless and may not require sedation. The number of embryos transferred varies. Specialists choose one or two of the best-quality embryos to maximize the chances of pregnancy.
You can perform a pregnancy test after the embryo transfer to confirm the procedure’s success. This may occur several days post-transfer, allowing time for implanted embryos to produce sufficient levels of human chorionic gonadotropin. The pregnancy test used in this context is usually a blood test known as a beta pregnancy test. It can be more sensitive and accurate than over-the-counter urine tests.
Possible Causes of IVF Failure
It is necessary to recognize that not all IVF cycles result in success, and understanding the reasons behind IVF failure can be necessary in navigating this complex journey. Here are the possible causes of IVF failure:
Embryos may have genetic or chromosomal abnormalities. This can prevent them from implanting in the uterine wall or developing into a healthy pregnancy. Age plays a significant role in this aspect, as the quality of both eggs and sperm tends to decline over time.
Abnormalities in the uterus, such as fibroids, polyps, or a septum, can interfere with the embryo’s ability to implant. Conditions like endometriosis or a thin endometrial lining can also impact the success of an IVF cycle. Discuss these conditions with a fertility specialist before treatment.
Hormones play a role in every stage of the IVF process. They contribute to egg development and embryo implantation. If there are imbalances or deficiencies in hormones like progesterone, estrogen, or human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), it might affect the success of the IVF cycle.
Habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and being overweight or underweight can negatively affect fertility. These factors can influence egg and sperm quality, hormonal balance, and overall reproductive health, thereby affecting the success of the IVF process.
Work With a Certified Fertility Specialist
Working with a certified fertility specialist for your IVF journey can enhance your chances of success by focusing on significant aspects related to fertility. These specialists can also conduct comprehensive testing to identify potential causes of infertility or IVF failure. Based on the findings, they can tailor an individualized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs. They can also monitor your progress closely throughout the IVF cycle to confirm optimal hormone levels and embryo development.