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What You Need To Know About IVF

​Couples who struggle to have a baby often choose to undergo IVF procedures. In vitro fertilization, or IVF, involves harvesting a woman's eggs from her ovaries, combining with her partner's sperm, and then creating an embryo that can be transferred to her womb.

Preparing for egg harvesting involves the woman's taking medications to ripen her ovaries. When her ovaries are ready to release eggs, the doctor retrieves them by inserting a hollow needle into her pelvic cavity. This is a minor surgical procedure that can be somewhat painful. However, doctors control a patient's pain with medications.

Once the eggs are harvested, they are combined with the husband's sperm in a petri dish. The biological material is allowed to combine in the hopes of an embryo being created. If fertilization does not take place, doctors can inject the sperm's material into the eggs. Once fertilization is complete and cell division is witnessed, the embryos can be placed in the woman's uterus. This happens about six days after the fertilization process.

Several embryos are inserted each time with the hope that one or two will survive. Ideally, the woman will not miscarry and the embryos can develop into a normal, healthy pregnancy.

The woman's age determines the success of this procedure. Women under the age of 35 typically have the highest success rates, with about 30% to 35% of women having babies. After age 35, the success rates decline. After age 40, the success rate is 10% or less.

As with any medical procedure, there can be risks and side effects. There is no guarantee that any woman will carry a pregnancy to term. She might miscarry the embryos and experience bleeding. Other side effects include weight gain, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, decreased urinary frequency, shortness of breath, and dark urine. If these symptoms become particularly bothersome, she can discuss them with her doctor.

The costs of IVF are known to be substantial, with a single procedure costing in the tens of thousands of dollars. These costs are not covered by health insurance companies either. People often pay out of pocket.

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