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In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In practice

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) involves stimulating the maturation of several follicles in the woman, and collecting the oocytes (eggs) by transvaginal ultrasound-guided aspiration.

The oocytes are then placed in a culture medium, and a suspension of sperm capacitation is added.

Fertilisation will take place spontaneously in an incubator.

After the embryos have been cultured for 2 to 5 days, a limited number of embryos is returned to the uterus, in according with legal provisions.

IVF is indicated in the treatmet of blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, moderately low sperm count, unexplained and immunological infertility.

Success rates can be expressed in different ways and, among other factors, depend on the age of the woman.


Complications of IVF

There are very few complications associated with IVF. These include:

- In around 5% of cases, ovarian hyperstimulation can manifest itself through abdominal bloating (which fills with fluid). In rare cases, this can require a hospitalisation of few days, with an intra-vaginal puncture to drain the fluid, and an intravenous drip to restore the hydromineral balance.

- In fewer than 2/1000 cases of oocyte retrieval, it can reawaken a previous infection of the tubes, requiring antibiotics and a hospitalisation of several days.

- In exceptional cases (1/1000) it can cause delayed bleeding where several follicles have been retrieved. Sometimes, this may require a laparoscopy to remove the blood.


The highest risk used to be twin pregnancies (20% of pregnancies until 2003) and triplet pregnancies (used to be 2%).

With the current facilities available (transfer of a single embryo in young woman), these risks have reduced to approximately 10% and 0.2% respectively, which is more or less equal to the risk of spontaneous multiple pregnancy in cases where MAR techniques have not been used.