In Vitro Fertilization Methods

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

In vitro fertilization is something that we hear about, and there are many details to the process. We are going to look at different methods used to complete the procedure of in vitro fertilization.

In Vitro Fertilization

Scientific studies and techniques have made things that once seemed impossible become possible. This has impacted many areas of our lives including how we reproduce. There are many ways to assist in the conception of a baby. Outside of the act of sexual intercourse which leads to in vivo fertilization, or fusion of sperm and egg inside of the female body, the other methods of reproduction fall under the umbrella of in vitro fertilization (IVF). This is the procedure involves the fusion of sperm and egg outside of the female body.

Richard and Anne are considering options that may be available to assist them in conceiving a child. Anne has ovulation problems meaning that her ovaries do not release eggs the way they are supposed to. For this reason, they are working with a fertility specialist to help them conceive. People with other medical diagnoses may need these procedures as well. These can include low sperm counts, blocked fallopian tubes, or other unknown fertility issues. Paula, the fertility specialist, is going over some of the different options that they can try.

Embryo Transfer

The first option that Paula explains is embryo transfer. This procedure will place an embryo, or fertilized egg from the point of 2 to 8 weeks following fertilization, in Anne's uterus for implantation. To prepare for this procedure, Paula will have Anne take medications that will make Anne produce more eggs than usual. Multiple eggs are necessary for the procedure because it is unlikely that every egg will be mature enough to be fertilized or that every egg will be fertilized even if they are mature.

When Anne has produced the desired number of eggs, Paula will then remove the eggs from Anne's ovaries. She will do this by inserting a catheter, or hollow tube, across Anne's pelvis and into her ovaries. The eggs will then be suctioned out of the ovaries through the catheter and placed into a petri dish.

Richard then has to give a semen sample. Richard's sperm are contained in his semen sample. The sperm and eggs will be mixed together in a petri dish. The petri dish is placed in a conducive environment in the laboratory and hopefully, the sperm will fertilize one or more of the eggs. Once the fertilized eggs develop to the embryo stage, one or more of them will be inserted into the uterus by passing through the vagina and cervix of the uterus. If all goes as planned, one of the fertilized eggs will implant into the wall of Anne's uterus and their baby will be on the way!

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

If Richard's sperm are not fertilizing the eggs by simply placing both of them in the petri dish together, a more active process such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be needed. This involves actually injecting a single sperm into one of the eggs. Paula will have to confirm fertilization has taken place by waiting for the fertilized egg to develop to the embryo stage. The embryo will be inserted into Anne's uterus as mentioned earlier.

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