IVF (in vitro fertilisation) is a process wherein female egg cells are fertilised by male sperm cells outside of the confines of the womb. In vitro, which is the Latin phrase for ‘within the glass’, is a reference to the fact that the fertilisation process that would normally take place within the body is removed to a glass receptacle - this is where the phrase ‘test-tube baby’ originated. Once fertilisation is achieved, the egg is then transferred into the woman’s uterus in the hope that a successful pregnancy will come about. IVF is a major fertilisation treatment that many couples turn to after attempting to conceive through conventional means or through other forms of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology).
If you are thinking of starting a family, but are having problems conceiving it is advisable to consult with your doctor. There are many reasons why you may be having difficulty in conceiving and your doctor will be able to advise you towards a solution without you having to turn to something as major as IVF treatment immediately. For example, the failure to conceive can be due to simple external factors concerning the lifestyle of the couple involved: high stress levels and the daily diet of the two people involved can have a major impact on the ability to conceive. It may be that simple changes in lifestyle can be enough to aid conception. Try not to worry about it too much at the early stages because for some couples the natural process just takes time, but if you do need help conceiving there are many options available to you, including the use of IVF.
An important early step will be for both partners to visit a fertility clinic to have specialist fertility tests – these will help determine if there is any natural barrier in place that is stopping your pregnancy. From here a specialist will run you through the potential solutions that could include: intra-cyctoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), the use of sperm or egg donors, the use of drugs to stimulate ovulation (eg Clomid), or the use of a surrogate mother to carry the child on your behalf.