Infertility is defined as not being able to conceive a child despite trying for at least a year. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, infertility affects 6.1 million American women and their partners, which is about 10 percent of the reproductive age population. Though this issue concerns most women, it is a myth that infertility is always a woman’s problem. Experts say that 80 percent of cases of infertility are due to male problems.
Infertility may be due to a single cause in either a woman or her partner, or a combination of factors that may prevent a pregnancy from occurring or continuing. According to the NWHRC (National Women’s Health Resource Center), most women in their late 30s are 30 percent less fertile than they were in their early 20s. About 20 percent of infertility cases are the result of fallopian tube disease. It is also important to note that between 30 and 40 percent of women with endometriosis are infertile.
In 85 to 90 percent of all cases, infertility is treated with either medication or surgery. However, recent improvements and innovations in medications such as microsurgery, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), make pregnancy possible. There are now more than 45, 000 babies that were born using IVF.
In Vitro Fertilization is a fertility procedure, first done successfully in 1978 in England by Dr. Robert Edwards, an embryologist, and Dr. Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist. Since then, the technology has been further advanced and developed by physicians and embryologists, with over 20,000 babies born worldwide. The possibility of a continuing pregnancy being achieved through IVF has improved from practically nothing to a one-time chance in 4 to 6 trials.
IVF is usually used as an alternative fertilization method when the fallopian tubes of a woman are blocked. The procedure involves manually combining sperm and eggs from willing partners or donors inside a laboratory. Medications are given to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. When the eggs are matured, the eggs are suctioned from the ovaries and placed in a laboratory culture dish with a man’s sperm for fertilization. The dish is then placed in an incubator. Two to three days later, three to five embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus. Pregnancy can be confirmed using blood tests about 13 days after egg aspiration. It can also be confirmed by ultrasound 30 to 40 days after aspiration. The entire procedure is done approximately for three weeks.
As with most medical procedures, there are some potential risks, the risks of IVF depend on each specific step of the procedure. Advances in science and technology, as best exemplified by In Vitro Fertilization, have brought hope and fulfillment to many couples around the world.
Until next time #GYNEGirls and #Preggos…