In Vitro Fertilization—The Process
In vitro fertilization is a process by which a woman’s egg is fertilized in a laboratory rather than inside her body. The fertilized egg is cultured for 2 to 6 days and then implanted into a woman’s uterus to complete the process of conception that leads to a successful pregnancy.
The IVF process is used both as a treatment for infertility and in cases of gestational surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy can use the intended mother’s egg the intended father’s sperm, the surrogate’s egg, or both eggs and sperm from donors. Another method, called ovarian hyperstimulation, uses drugs called gonadotropins over a 10 day period to stimulate egg production.
The cost of in vitro fertilization can vary depending upon the number of procedures required to achieve a successful pregnancy from approximately $8000 to $17,000. The costs associated with gestational surrogacy can be over $150,000 because they include the costs associated with the pregnancy as well. Psychological screenings, counseling, legal fees, and medications are among the expenses covered by that fee.
The legal status of in vitro fertilization varies by country, with some countries placing more restrictions on the process than others. For example, some countries such as China and Turkey only allow the process for married couples, while others such as Spain permit it for single people and same-sex couples as well. Surrogacy is banned in many countries, but permitted in India and many others, with some restrictions.
The Rising Use of In Vitro Fertilization
The use of in vitro fertilization has increased in recent years for a number of reasons. According to a recent report, that trend is expected to continue, with an estimated increase of 7% from 2015 to 2021. According to one article, 61,740 babies, or 1.5% of all babies born in 2012 in the U.S. alone were the result of successful in vitro fertilization. In Australia in 2010, the 61,774 assisted reproductive treatments performed resulted in 12,056 live births.
Many people who are sure they want children in the future take the precautionary measure of having eggs and/or sperm frozen for future use. However, the success rate of the procedure is lower with the use of frozen eggs. The age of the woman is also a factor, with women over age 40 having lower success rates than those under the age of 35. However, until 2006, the record for the oldest woman to give birth using IVF and a donated egg was held by Adriana Iliescu, who gave birth at the age of 66.
Common Reasons for the Use of In Vitro Fertilization
Economic factors play a role in the decision of many women to postpone having children until their careers are firmly established and they are able to financially support a child. The average cost of raising a child in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years to $304,480 when adjusted for projected inflation. That figure is calculated on raising a child from birth to the age of 18 and does not include the cost of college or other forms of higher education that prepare young people to enter the workforce and become financially independent.
Fertility disorders are another common reason women choose to use in vitro fertilization. The most common cause of female infertility is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In this condition, changes in the the hypothalamus, pituitary glands and ovaries create a hormone imbalance that affects ovulation. Another common causes include hypothalamic dysfunction caused by physical or emotional stress or a substantial weight gain or loss and pelvic tuberculosis.
Premature ovarian insufficiency disorder is caused by an autoimmune response in which the body attacks ovarian tissues. It can occur as the result of genetic factors or environmental factors such as exposure to chemotherapy and causes a decrease in estrogen and a loss of ability for the ovaries to produce eggs.
Hyperprolactinemia is a condition in which the pituitary gland produces too much prolactin, which reduces estrogen production. It can either be genetic or caused by medications taken for other conditions. Polyps or tumors can block fallopian tubes, and endometriosis can cause scarring that prevents successful implantation of the embryo. Endometriosis, cervical stenosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and genetic uterine abnormalities are also common reasons for women to utilize IVF.
The Future of IVF
Since the successful birth of Loise Brown resulting from IVF in 1978, it is estimated that 5 million babies had been born by 2014 using IVF. In 2011, 588,629 treatments were reported from 33 European countries. 151,923 were reported from the U.S. and 66,347 from New Zealand and Australia. The approximately 1.5 million treatments performed each year result in the birth of an estimated 350,000 babies.
This remarkable process, which has continued to grow at a rate of 5 to 10% each year, has allowed many people who might otherwise have remained childless to experience the joys of parenthood. Techniques continue to be refined, which is predicted to increase the success rate even further.