In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

What is IVF?

IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology where mature eggs are retrieved from the ovaries. To retrieve mature eggs, women have to undergo egg retrieval surgery which is a minimally invasive surgical procedure.

These eggs are combined with sperm in a laboratory setting to fertilise. The resulting embryo is then transferred back into the mother’s uterus to establish pregnancy.

Why do you need IVF?

Your doctor may recommend IVF:

  • If other assisted reproductive techniques are unsuccessful. Examples of other assisted reproductive techniques include ovulation induction or intrauterine insemination.
  • To preserve fertility (e.g. Women diagnosed with cancer may freeze their eggs before starting on cancer treatment).
  • To treat infertility due to:
    • Blocked, damaged, missing or removed fallopian tubes.
    • Decreased sperm count or low sperm motility (the ability of sperm to swim).
    • Ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, endometriosis.
    • Idiopathic infertility (unexplained reasons).
    • Genetic disorders.

What are the risks and complications of IVF?

As a woman undergoing IVF, you may encounter the following risks or complications:

  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Fertility drugs such as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) can cause your ovaries to swell and hurt. You may also experience abdominal bloatedness and fluid retention; in severe cases, hospitalisation may be required. These symptoms generally last for a week but may last for several weeks if you become pregnant.
  • Complications related to egg retrieval. When collecting your eggs with a needle, there is a risk of bleeding, infection or damage to your bowel, bladder or blood vessel.
  • Ectopic pregnancy. Less than 5% of women who undergo IVF may experience an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised egg implants outside the uterus. As the fertilised egg can't survive outside the uterus, the pregnancy cannot proceed and can be dangerous for the woman.
  • Miscarriage. If you conceive through IVF with fresh embryos, the rate of miscarriage is similar to natural conception — about 15% to 25%.
  • Multiple births. When more than one embryo is transferred to your uterus, there is an increased risk of multiple births. Multiple births are associated with a higher risk of premature delivery and low birth weight.
  • Premature delivery and low birth weight. If you conceive through IVF, you may deliver early and your baby may have a low birth weight.
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