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In Vitro Fertilization
(In-Vitro Fertilization, IVF)

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Introduction

Infertility, also called primary infertility, is the inability of a couple to become pregnant (regardless of cause) after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse using no birth control methods. This is in contrast to secondary infertility, which refers to the inability to maintain a pregnancy until birth.

Primary infertility affects about 6.1 million people in the United States, about 10% of men and women of reproductive age. Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are techniques to help a woman become pregnant, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and other similar procedures.

IVF was used successfully for the first time in the United States in 1981. More than 4 million babies have been born worldwide as a result of using the in vitro fertilization technique. IVF offers infertile couples a chance to have a child who is biologically related to them. Today, over 1% of infants born in the US are a result of a pregnancy conceived by assisted reproductive technologies.

With IVF, a method of assisted reproduction, a man's sperm and the woman's egg are combined in a laboratory dish, where fertilization occurs. The resulting embryo or embryos is/are then transferred to the woman's uterus (womb) to implant and develop naturally. Usually, two to four embryos are placed in the woman's uterus at one time. Each attempt is called a cycle.

The term test tube baby has been used in the past to refer to children conceived with this technique. The first so-called test tube baby, Louise Brown, reached age 25 years in 2003. She was born in England.

Less than 5% of infertile couples actually use IVF. IVF is usually the treatment of choice for a woman with blocked, severely damaged, or no Fallopian tubes. IVF is also used to overcome infertility caused by endometriosis or problems with the man's sperm (such as low sperm count). Couples who simply can't conceive and have tried other infertility methods (such as intrauterine insemination) that have not worked for them can also try IVF.

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