In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): Procedure, Risks


In this article we will look at:

You can click on any of the links above to navigate to the section of your interest.

What is IVF?

In Vitro Fertilization literally means, “the fertilization of eggs with sperm in glass”. ‘In vitro’ is Latin for ‘within the glass’. 

Therefore, In Vitro Fertilization refers to fertilization which occurs outside the body in a laboratory through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). 

It is a process of fertilization that starts with extracting eggs from a woman. A sperm sample is taken from a man. Then manually the eggs and sperm are combined in a laboratory dish.
The embryo(s) is/are then transferred to the uterus of the woman with the intent to establish a pregnancy.

When is IVF done?

IVF is used to treat infertility in people who have: 

  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
  • Male factor infertility including decreased sperm count or sperm motility
  • Women with ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, uterine fibroids
  • Women who have had their fallopian tubes removed
  • Individuals with a genetic disorder
  • Unexplained infertility

How is IVF performed?

IVF comprises of five basic steps:

  1. The first day of IVF treatment is day 1 of the monthly period. In the normal monthly cycle, the ovaries normally produce 1 egg. Fertility medicines are prescribed to encourage the follicles in the ovaries (where the eggs are) to produce more eggs.
    The goal is to have multiple eggs as some eggs will not develop or fertilize after retrieval. Blood tests will be performed to keep a check on the hormone levels.
    A transvaginal ultrasound is used to examine the ovaries.

  2. The next procedure is egg retrieval, or egg ‘pick up’, when eggs are retrieved through a minor surgical procedure.  Ultrasound imaging is used to guide a hollow needle through the pelvic cavity to remove the eggs. Medication is administered to reduce and remove any potential discomfort. The number of eggs collected on an average is 8 -15.

  3. The male partner is asked to produce a sample of sperm, the morning of the egg retrieval. Alternatively, if frozen or donor sperm is being used, the scientists will have it ready in the lab. The sperm is prepared for combining with the eggs.

  4. In a process called insemination, the sperm and eggs are mixed together and stored in a laboratory dish where they have the chance to find each other and fertilize like they would naturally within a mother’s body.
    If there is a low probability of fertilization, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be used to inject a single sperm directly into the egg in an attempt to achieve fertilization. The eggs are frequently monitored to find out if fertilization and cell division are taking place. Once this occurs, the fertilized eggs are considered embryos.

  5. Three to five days after egg retrieval and fertilization the embryos are usually transferred into the woman’s uterus. A catheter or small tube is inserted into the uterus to transfer the embryos. It is a painless procedure for most women although some may experience mild cramping. Ultrasound is used to get the embryo in the perfect spot.

What are the side effects of IVF?

The side effects of fertility medications include:

  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hot flashes
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS) in rare cases

The side effects of IVF include: 

  • passing a small amount of fluid after the procedure (could be clear or blood-tinged)
  • cramping sensation
  • stomach bloating
  • constipation
  • breast tenderness
  • Psychological and emotional stress

What are the risks/complications associated with IVF?

The complications associated with IVF include:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Pelvic pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • A fever over 100.5 °F (38 °C)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased urinary frequency
  • Shortness of breath
  • Faintness
  • Severe stomach pains and bloating
  • Damage to the bowel or bladder during egg retrieval
  • Ten-pound weight gain within three to five days
  • Ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants anywhere outside the uterus and is not viable)

If you experience any of these symptoms you need to consult your doctor immediately, 

What is the success rate of IVF?

The global average for IVF success is around 40% in young women. The highest success rate is for women between the ages of 24 years to 34 years as that is the period of peak fertility. 

The success of IVF largely depends on the age and health of a woman. The table below shows IVF success rates according to age: 

What is the cost of IVF in India? 

Depending upon the city, and hospital amenities, the cost of IVF in India can range between Rs. 120000 to 300000. 

Would you like to consult a doctor for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) ?

Questions answered by trusted doctors

Verified User
My both tubes are blocked.... i hav no idea what should i do...plz tell me procedre of ivf... as soon as possible....
Dr. Jyotsna Gupta
Gynecologist, Delhi
if your both tubes are blocked  first get laproscopy done to confirm the finding.  if blocked then IVF is the option. or you can go for surgery
Verified User
My wife had undergone an IVF procedure in one of the fertility center at Chennai. I had an issue of low count and there was no success after repeated IUI process (9 times). Hence we were suggested for IVF. Just wanted to know why IVF wld have failure and does repeated procedure's causes any health problems to my wife.
Dr. Venkat Raghav
General Physician, Bangalore
Hey , failure will be there  in IVF as they don't literally inject sperm in to egg , and every procedure will have its own risk , but you need to seek the the reason behind last failure
Verified User
Hi, I am planning for IVF soon. I am interested in knowing how early can i travel after ivf? i have a planned holiday outside India in November for a week. how early is travelling allowed after ivf?
Dr. Harisha N L
General Physician, Bangalore
Hi there I understand your concern and anxiety...there are no data suggestive of ill effects due to travel after your ivf...but its always better to get it confirmed by your treating doctors as they will be knowing your condition better....if you are perfectly fine after ivf means you can travel....Regards
Ask health queries and get free answers from doctors in 24 hrs

Did you know?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) was first performed successfully in 1978

In vitro fertilization (IVF) was first performed successfully in 1978 in Oldham, England, resulting in the birth of Louise Brown, who was conceived using Natural Cycle IVF (NC-IVF). Since then, more than 4 million children have been born using IVF. The introduction of this technique completely changed the ability to treat even the most difficult cases of infertility, many of which were previously untreatable.

Even IVF pregnancies can become ectopic

Ectopic pregnancies occur when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies occur when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus( mostly occur in the fallopian tubes, although they can take place elsewhere). Uterine contractions that occur post-transfer can cause the embryo to move elsewhere. In fact, ectopic pregnancies are more common (2% – 5%) with IVF than with natural conceptions (1% to 2.5%).

Eggs harvested does not equal eggs fertilized

Your eggs are carefully screened to make sure they have everything required to produce a healthy embryo. And although your doctor may harvest 10 to 20 eggs, it may be that only a small portion of these can actually be used to create embryos for IVF transfer.

Related videos

Related articles

Vaginal Birth After Caesarean (VBAC): Process & Risks

Attempting a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC), i.e. during the second pregnancy, is known as a Trial of Labor After Cesarean (TOLAC). Approximately 90% of the women who have undergone cesarean deliveries are possible candidates for VBAC.

Vacuum Extraction/Vacuum Assisted Vaginal Delivery

Vacuum extraction is a procedure which is sometimes done during a vaginal delivery to assist the delivery of the baby.

Childbirth & Delivery Methods: Procedures, Costs, & Risks

Now with advancement in science and technology, modern medical practices have a number of options which have made childbirth a much safer experience over the past century for both the mother and the baby.