What is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)? Benefits, Process, and Costs

What is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)? Benefits, Process, and Costs

Medical professionals developed in vitro fertilization (IVF), a method in the late 1970s, where they combine eggs and sperm in a laboratory dish to create embryos outside the body. Since then, IVF has continued to grow and become a popular method of supporting couples experiencing infertility or difficulty conceiving. The technology has helped millions of couples around the world have children and has continued to improve and develop over the years.

I. What is IVF

IVF, short for In Vitro Fertilization, is a fertility treatment that involves fertilizing an egg with sperm in a laboratory to create an embryo. After a brief incubation period, usually 2-5 days, the embryo is implanted in the woman’s uterus for further development.

II. Who should consider using the IVF method?

In summary, potential candidates for considering IVF may include:

  • Infertility due to ovulation disorders, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, or tubes that have been surgically removed.
  • Infertility stemming from uterine conditions such as uterine endometrial anomalies or uterine fibroids.
  • Infertility caused by male factors, such as weak or low sperm count, retrograde ejaculation, or the absence of sperm in the ejaculate.
  • Older couples where the female partner has diminished ovarian reserve.
  • Cases where repeated artificial insemination has been unsuccessful.
  • Unexplained infertility or unexplained secondary infertility.
  • Couples at risk of passing on genetic diseases, such as Thalassemia or Hemophilia, who require preimplantation genetic testing to reduce the risk of their offspring inheriting these conditions.

III. The process and steps of performing IVF

IVF includes the following steps:

Ovarian stimulation

  • The wife is administered ovarian stimulation medications, typically lasting for 10-12 days. Throughout the medication period, the wife will have appointments for ultrasound and blood tests to monitor the development of ovarian follicles and uterine lining.
  • The healthcare team administers the final injection, known as the trigger shot, to trigger the maturation of the eggs when the ovarian follicles reach the desired size. Administering this injection at the correct time is crucial.

Egg retrieval

  • The egg retrieval procedure is performed transvaginally approximately 36 hours after the final injection. During the egg retrieval, the wife is under anesthesia and won’t experience any pain. The procedure typically takes about 10-15 minutes for each case.
    Simultaneously, the husband provides a sperm sample for fertilization with the eggs.
  • After the egg retrieval, the wife will be required to remain in the hospital for observation for the next 2-3 hours.

Fertilization

The laboratory will receive the eggs and sperm to initiate the fertilization process and create embryos. A specialized environment will be used to culture the embryos for about 2-5 days before the doctor and embryologist transfer them into the wife’s uterus.

The doctor and embryologist will inform the couple about the number and quality of the embryos created.

Embryo transfer

There are two embryo transfer techniques: fresh embryo transfer and frozen embryo transfer.
A fresh embryo transfer refers to the immediate transfer of embryos after their creation. Conversely, in some cases, all the high-quality embryos are cryopreserved, and the wife undergoes embryo transfer in subsequent cycles.

While waiting for embryo transfer, the healthcare team will administer oral and vaginal medications to prepare the uterine lining of the wife.

The doctor will perform the embryo transfer after confirming that the uterine lining is of the necessary thickness, good quality, and has a favorable appearance for implantation and embryo development once placed in the uterus.

The embryo transfer procedure is usually quick, lasting about 5 to 10 minutes. Afterward, the wife can leave without the need for further hospital observation.

In the two weeks following the embryo transfer, the wife continues to use hormonal medications as instructed by the doctor.

Pregnancy test

The wife returns for a follow-up appointment to undergo a check-up and blood tests (Beta HCG test) as scheduled.

  • An embryo implantation is indicated when the wife’s blood Beta HCG level is >25 IU/L, confirming pregnancy. Healthcare providers then monitor the progress of the pregnancy by conducting beta HCG tests and ultrasound scans to determine the presence of the gestational sac, yolk sac, fetal position, and fetal heartbeat.
  • The doctor will provide instructions for follow-up appointments, which may vary depending on the specific case.

If an embryo transfer is unsuccessful but there are remaining embryos in storage, the wife can proceed with the transfer of the remaining embryos in subsequent cycles without the need to repeat ovarian stimulation or egg retrieval steps.

How much does IVF cost?

The cost of an IVF cycle can vary significantly depending on the country you choose. For example, in Malaysia, it hovers around $6,000, while in Vietnam, it’s around $5,000. In Thailand, the cost is approximately $14,000. It’s challenging to provide a specific cost because the final expenses depend on the individual’s health condition and specific treatment plan.

V. Benefits/Risks of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Benefits

  • IVF offers couples facing infertility or fertility challenges the opportunity to conceive and have children.
  • IVF provides control over the number of embryos created, aiding decision-making in childbirth situations.
  • Detecting genetic abnormalities: Prior to the embryo implantation, IVF enables genetic screening to identify genetic abnormalities, preventing the birth of babies with genetic disorders.
  • Reducing the risk of fallopian tube infection: IVF eliminates the chance of eggs and sperm meeting in the fallopian tubes, reducing the risk of inflammation and infection.
  • Assisting older couples or those with fertility issues in having children: IVF helps couples with reduced fertility or those who face challenges due to age to have children.
  • Embryo selection: IVF enables the screening of embryos to eliminate those with genetic abnormalities or harmful genetic factors.
  • Research and scientific development: IVF has contributed to the advancement of reproductive biology and genetic research, benefiting society by deepening our understanding of the fertilization and fetal development process.

Risks

  • Multiple pregnancies: Being pregnant with more than one baby increases the risk of premature birth.
  • Premature birth: A slightly elevated risk of your baby being born prematurely or with a lower birth weight exists in cases of premature birth.
  • Miscarriage: The miscarriage rate is similar to that of naturally conceived pregnancies.
  • Ectopic pregnancy: This is when a fertilized egg attaches itself outside the uterus.
  • Complications during egg retrieval: Potential complications during the egg retrieval procedure include bleeding, infection, and damage to the bladder, bowel, or reproductive organs.
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS): A rare condition that can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid weight gain, bloating, shortness of breath, and difficulty urinating.

VI. Countries leading in the field of IVF

There are several countries leading the way in the field of IVF, where assisted reproductive technology is advancing significantly. In this list, we have the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and many other countries. However, this advancement often comes with significantly higher IVF costs. But
Don’t worry, recent studies suggest that the East Asia and Pacific region is becoming a hub for Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).
China, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam offer more affordable IVF options.

Today, to ensure convenience and easy access to IVF services for customers, Ezyhealthcare has established strong partnerships with a variety of ART centers in developing countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia. This meets the rising demand for IVF and keeps costs budget-friendly for couples on their journey to parenthood.

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