"Test Tube" Pregnancies (In-Vitro Fertilisation - I.V.F.)
What is "test-tube" pregnancy (I.V.F)
In 1977, Mr. Steptoe and Dr. Edwards
achieved the first successful human pregnancy by the technique of in-vitro
fertilisation and embryo transfer. This procedure involves fertilizing
an egg outside the body and then transferring the embryo back into the
For whom is I.V.F. advisable
Candidates for I.V.F. are usually those women with irreparably damaged tubes. I.V.F. can also be the treatment of last resort in the case of problems like oligospermia, major cervical mucus hostility factors and certain cases of unexplained infertility.
A woman's age must be considered. Older women feel additional pressure as they feel their biological clocks are ticking and time is running out. The majority of I.V.F clinics put a ceiling on the age for women eligible for this treatment. The general limit is 38 years.
This very complex procedure (which
has been explained in a very simplistic fashion here), is time-consuming
and expensive. While I.V.F. offers hope to many people, its use is only
indicated for a very small proportion of the infertile population.
How successful is this treatment
The success rate of pregnancy associated
with this treatment ranges between 15-30%. In the case of a very young
patient with a severe tubal problem, it is worth attempting tubal surgery
first since even the low success of surgery in these circumstances will
probably be greater than the likely success of I.V.F.
What tests are undertaken before performing I.V.F.
Once the couple has been seen and
considered to be possibly suitable for I.V.F., a series of tests commence
which will include semen analysis, semen culture and assessment of the
menstrual cycle with hormone assays. Depending on the technique that will
be used to retrieve the eggs (oocytes) a preliminary laparoscopy or ovarian
ultrasound scan may be required, so that the accessibility of the ovaries
can be determined.
How is I.V.F. carried out
A combination of clomiphene and Pergonal is usually given to promote the maturation of several follicles. The idea is that if one has several follicles available for egg retrieval, then if more than one egg is successfully fertilized and transferred back into the uterus, the odds are greater that at least one of them will successfully implant. The progress of the growth of the follicles is closely monitored either by blood and urine tests or by ultrasound measurement of the follicles.
Once the follicles are ready for ovulation, H.C.G. of 5,000 units is given. The eggs are retrieved 33-36 hours following the H.C.G. injection.
There are two methods which clinics may use for egg retrieval.
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