IVF, or in vitro fertilisation, is a technique used to help a woman get pregnant. It is when a human egg is fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.
IVF is used to treat infertility and some genetic problems.
Read more on when to consider IVF.
What happens during the IVF process?
During IVF, eggs are removed from the ovaries of a woman and fertilised in a laboratory with sperm provided by her partner or a donor.
One or two embryos — fertilised eggs — are implanted into the woman’s uterus (womb).
Here are the typical stages in an IVF cycle:
- The woman’s natural menstrual cycle is switched off with daily injections or a nasal spray.
- The woman has injections of fertility hormones to stimulate her ovaries so she produces several eggs, instead of just one.
- When the eggs mature, they are collected using a fine needle, guided by ultrasound, under light sedation.
- The eggs are fertilised in the laboratory with sperm provided by the woman’s partner or a donor.
- Fertilised eggs (embryos) are grown in an incubator for a few days.
- 1 or 2 healthy embryos are transferred into the woman’s uterus using a thin tube inserted into the vagina and cervix.
- If an embryo successfully implants, the woman becomes pregnant. She will need to wait two weeks for a pregnancy test.
- Any remaining healthy embryos can be frozen and stored for later use if needed.
Women who have IVF often have more than one cycle.
There are many variations to the IVF procedure. For example, sperm or eggs may be collected from a donor. In some cases, a surrogate may carry the pregnancy.
Chances of success with IVF
On average, every time a woman has a cycle of IVF, she has about a 1 in 5 chance of becoming pregnant and having a baby. That chance is higher for women younger than 35 years old, and lower for older women, decreasing with age. By age 44, the chance of success is less than 1 in 10.
Some women need up to 5 cycles of treatment to be successful, while others never fall pregnant.
Can single, lesbian or gay people use IVF?
Any Australians who are infertile can use IVF whether they are single or in a partnership.
The situation for lesbian or gay people (who may not be infertile) and same sex couples seeking IVF can vary. Following changes to the law in recent years, IVF is now accessible to lesbian couples in most parts of Australia. For information about IVF that is relevant to your own situation, talk to your doctor or a local fertility clinic.
Costs of IVF
IVF is time consuming. Repeated cycles can take an emotional and physical toll on people going through it.
Financial costs vary a lot, but each cycle of IVF may cost several thousand dollars. You can get a rebate on some IVF items from Medicare if they are medically necessary for you to get pregnant. Your private health fund may pay for other aspects of treatment. There are also the costs of medicines, tests and day surgery.
If you are considering IVF, it is important to talk to your doctor, the IVF clinic and your health fund (if you have one) to understand what you will be charged for and what you will be covered for.
You need to think about whether it is affordable for you and right for you.
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Last reviewed: September 2019