In Vitro Fertilization
In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, is when an embryologist combines an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish for fertilization. If the procedure is successful, the next step is an embryo transfer, in which the embryo is placed in the uterus. IVF can be done with the couple’s egg and sperm, or with donor eggs or sperm. Nearly 35 percent of IVF procedures are successful in women under the age of 35, but only 15–25 percent of IVF procedures are successful for women between the ages of 35 and 40.
There are five steps in the IVF procedure:
- Stimulate the ovaries in order to develop healthy eggs
- Collect the healthy eggs (this process is called egg retrieval)
- Collect and test the sperm
- Combine the eggs and sperm in the laboratory, providing the correct environment for fertilization and embryo growth.
- Transfer the embryos into the uterus (the egg retrieval and transfer of embryos are done by a reproductive endocrinologist)
Why Choose IVF?
There are many reasons why people choose in vitro fertilization. The most common reason is that the couple is struggling to get pregnant on their own and need a little assistance. In some cases the man does not produce enough sperm for fertilization to take place. In other cases, the woman cannot produce healthy eggs. Another common reason is genetic predisposition of one parent toward certain health problems.
Other Types of IVF
There are two other forms of IVF: GIFT and ZIFT. GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer) involves transferring the egg and sperm to the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus. Fertilization takes place in the fallopian tubes and not the laboratory dish. ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer) is similar to GIFT except that the fertilization happens in a laboratory dish, and the fertilized egg is transferred to the fallopian tubes. Both methods are laparoscopic surgical procedures.
Many people are concerned about the financial aspect of the IVF procedure, especially since most insurance plans do not cover infertility treatments. For the past 10 years the IVF market has been very stable. Most reputable clinics that perform this procedure charge between $10,000 – $12,000 for the complete cycle and medications. There are clinics that advertise IVF for much less, but these clinics tend to leave out of their advertisements such things as laboratory costs, medications, and the cost of monitoring.
There are other types of plans, different from insurance plans, that offer couples options. There are “money back guarantee” plans, under which the clinic will refund your money if the procedure does not work. In order to take advantage of this type of plan, a couple will usually have to pay more for the procedure, in some cases as much as $15,000 or more. Most clinics do not offer these types of plans to older women. You have to keep in mind that these plans are not set up for the clinic to lose money.
Another option is to pay for multiple cycles at once in a packaged deal. Usually these packages are good for three cycles. It’s slightly cheaper to pay for multiple cycles at once than to pay for three individual cycles. The catch is that if the couple is successful in the first or second cycle, they don’t see any savings. Given the rate of successful pregnancies today, no couple should consider paying for multiple cycles up front unless they have been unsuccessful previously.