Having a test tube baby is done through a procedure known as in vitro fertilization (IVF). In this procedure, the female reproductive eggs are fertilized with male sperm outside of the body in a lab.
The term “in vitro” translates to “in glass” which is why IVF babies are known as test tube babies. The fertilized eggs are then placed back inside the woman’s uterus.
IVF allows couples who are unable to conceive naturally using other conventional methods to have the opportunity to have a baby. Babies that are born using IVF are just as normal as babies who were conceived naturally.
The technology for IVF is now so advanced and pregnancy rates for women who are unable to conceive naturally are increasing all the time as research continues to further advance the IVF procedure.
These days IVF is now firmly recognized around the world as one of the mainstream methods of treating infertility.
History of the Test Tube Baby
The world’s first test tube baby, Louise Joy Brown, was delivered by cesarean section in 1978 in England.
Since the early 1960s, Dr. Patrick Steptoe and Dr. Robert Edwards had been conducting infertility research involving both artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization.
At first, there was a lot of controversy by both religious groups and the medical community.
However, the procedure of IVF continued to advance and today over 1 million “test tube” babies have been born around the world.
Using IVF for Infertility
Using in vitro fertilization is an effective treatment for a variety of causes of infertility. The IVF procedure is something your doctor may suggest to you after you and your partner have been trying to conceive for at least two years without success.
Some causes which lead to infertility that might make you a candidate for in vitro fertilization includes the following:
- Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.
- Women over the age of 40 who have a lower quantity and quality of eggs.
- Severe cases of endometriosis.
- Women who have failed over two cycles of intrauterine insemination.
- Women who have used fertility drugs, such as Clomiphene, without success.
- Women who have undergone tubal ligation and now want to conceive.
- Male infertility factors, such as a low sperm count.
- Infertility that is unexplained and is not able to be resolved.
If you and your partner meet the above criteria you may want to think about using IVF. With so many new advancements in IVF technology your success rate for achieving pregnancy are higher than they’ve ever been.
IVF Procedure for Infertile Couples
Once your doctor has determined that you and your partner are good candidates for IVF there are several steps that you’ll have to undergo before you become pregnant.
The steps of IVF are as follows:
- Step 1: Suppressing your natural hormonal cycle. Your doctor will put you on drug hormone therapy for about two weeks so that your body’s natural menstrual and ovulation cycle is suppressed.
- Step 2: Increasing the supply of eggs. Once your body’s natural cycle has been suppressed you’ll be given a hormone to stimulate the follicles. You’ll take this fertility hormone for about 12 days so that your body produces more eggs. The more eggs you have to be fertilized the more embryos you’ll have available for IVF treatment.
- Step 3: Close monitoring. Throughout the course of your drug treatment, your doctor will keep a close eye on your progress using blood tests as well as ultrasound scans. About 34 to 38 hours before your eggs are going to be collected you’ll be given another hormone drug that will help your eggs to mature.
- Step 4: Egg Retrieval. Under sedation, your eggs will be retrieved. Using ultrasound a tiny needle will be inserted into each of your ovaries to retrieve the eggs. You may experience a bit of vaginal bleeding and cramping after this procedure.
- Step 5: Egg fertilization. After your eggs have been retrieved they’ll be combined with either your partner’s sperm or donor sperm in a laboratory culture. After 16 to 20 hours, you’ll be given medication that will help your womb get ready for implantation of those eggs that have been fertilized.
- Step 6: Embryo Transfer. Depending on your age, two or three embryos will be transferred to your womb. More than three embryos lead to the risk of multiple births. If there are any remaining embryos they can be frozen for future IVF cycles.
- Step 7: Pregnancy. After the IVF procedure is completed you’ll be sent home where you can resume all your normal daily activities. You’ll take a pregnancy test in about two weeks to determine if the IVF treatment has been a success and if you’re pregnant.
The success rate for having a “test tube baby” will vary depending on your age and the quality and quantity of eggs, however, on average, you have about a 10 percent chance of becoming pregnant each time you undergo an IVF cycle.
For this reason, you may need to undergo more than two or three IVF cycles before you become pregnant.