Around one in eight heterosexual couples struggle to fall pregnant naturally. In 1978, the first baby was born using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Since then, over five million babies have been born across the world thanks to this technique.
IVF is used by heterosexual couples facing infertility, same-sex couples and single people who wish to have children. This once ground-breaking procedure is now becoming more common. As couples choose to delay parenthood until later in life, it is expected that the use of IVF will become commonplace and may even one day outnumber the number of babies conceived naturally.
Despite bringing joy to so many parents, many people are unaware of how IVF works. This TED ED video produced by Nassim Assefi and Brian A Levine explains how the procedure works. IVF works by mimicking nature, so the video also explains in detail exactly how conception occurs naturally. The two processes are shown alongside each other to give viewers a greater understanding of how the process copies natural reproduction.
What Is Involved With IVF?
‘In vitro’ means taking place or performed outside of a living organism. Put simply, in-vitro fertilisation means that the egg is fertilised not inside the woman’s body, but in a culture dish. In order for this to happen, the woman’s body must go through the monthly cycle of allowing an egg to mature in preparation for ovulation. In IVF, hormones are injected to cause an overstimulation of the ovaries allow more than one egg to mature, thus increasing the chance of successful fertilisation. The woman is monitored to determine when the eggs are mature, and these are then removed from the ovary under general anaesthetic.
Once in the lab, the eggs are prepared for fertilisation in a petri-dish, and then placed in an incubator. Sperm samples are usually acquired through masturbation, though this is not always the case. There are then two methods used for fertilisation. In the first, thousands of sperm are placed with the egg in the hope that fertilisation will occur. If the sperm is low quality and there is an increased risk that fertilisation may not occur, a single sperm is injected into the egg.
Once fertilisation has occurred, the fertilised egg may be screened for abnormalities. It is most common for the fertilised egg to be transferred three or five days after fertilisation. A catheter is used to place the fertilised egg into the woman’s uterus.
To find out more about how IVF works, check out BellyBelly’s article IVF and Infertility – Causes, Risk and IVF Success.
If you love TED Talks, check out this great one by Ina May Gaskin on Reducing The Fear Of Birth.