The menstrual cycle of fertile women usually lasts about a month. During this time, under the influence of the body's own natural hormones, a tiny sack within the ovary containing an egg grows to about the size of a grape. At a point midway in the cycle, this egg is released from the ovary and ovulation occurs. Ovulation is also regulated by hormones. The egg, which from this moment on is ready for fertilization, then passes into the uterine tubes to await the arrival of fertile sperm.
Ovulation is a naturally occurring event and the desire to have children is a similarly natural instinct. However, that instinct cannot always be fulfilled. The causes of unwanted childlessness are numerous, but fortunately, there are means of treating them. One such technique is in vitro fertilization (IVF).
In vitro fertilization (IVF) involves removing several eggs from the ovary for fertilization in the laboratory. After a few days, one or two of these fertilized eggs, now known as embryos, are returned to the uterus in the hope that they implant and become a pregnancy.
Women undergoing IVF are given special reproductive hormones to encourage several eggs to develop in the ovaries. The final maturation of the egg itself is induced by the administration of a further hormone 36 hours later. Fluid containing the eggs is drawn from the ovary with a needle, usually performed under light sedation in a short outpatient procedure with the doctor using ultrasound to check proceedings.
The eggs collected from the ovary are then mixed with a sample of the male partner's sperm, which has already been washed and concentrated. The eggs and sperm are left in an incubator set at 37 degrees for 24 hours so that fertilization can take place. During this time, only one of the many sperm cells will penetrate the outer layer of the egg and achieve fertilization.
Following fertilization, the cells divide and multiply to form an embryo. After two or three days, a healthy embryo will comprise around 8 cells. It is then transferred to the uterus by means of a thin flexible tube, where it is left to implant and form a pregnancy.
All these methods of assisted reproduction offer couples a good chance of bringing a healthy baby into the world. However, it is important for each individual patient to undergo a consultation and thorough examination in order to find the most appropriate treatment with the highest chance of success.
Female fertility decreases quite quickly after the age of 35, so infertile couples should not delay seeking appropriate medical advice.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) has proven to be a successful solution for many couples struggling with infertility. By understanding the menstrual cycle and utilizing reproductive hormones, eggs can be collected, fertilized in a laboratory setting, and then transferred to the uterus to form a pregnancy.
It is important for couples experiencing infertility to seek appropriate medical advice as soon as possible. With advancements in assisted reproduction techniques like IVF, the dream of having a child can become a reality.