In natural conception, when an egg is ovulated each month, sufficient numbers of actively swimming sperm need to enter the cervix, work their way up the uterus and into the fallopian tubes. An egg must be released from the ovary and make its way down the tube to meet the sperm - the timing for all this needs to be right so that the egg and sperm can combine. Then, if the sperm successfully fertilises the egg, the dividing egg makes it way back down to the uterus to implant into the lining of the womb.
A problem with any of these steps in the reproductive process may result in difficulties in becoming pregnant. There are a number of reasons why this process may not work efficiently and this is where IVF (in vitro fertilisation) can help. Whilst it is not a treatment cure for infertility, IVF can overcome issues that obstruct natural conception and help people who can't conceive naturally to have a baby. The IVF procedure includes a number of steps:
1. A woman’s ovaries are stimulated with fertility drugs to produce multiple mature eggs
2. The eggs are then collected from her body
3. Her eggs are then fertilised with her partner’s sperm in the embryology lab.
4. The resulting embryos are cultured for three to five days
5. One of the embryos is transferred back into her uterus
A typical IVF treatment takes approximately seven weeks from when you take your first drug, until your pregnancy test.
The first successful IVF procedure was carried out in 1978 and Professor Simon Fishel, who founded CARE Fertility and is our Head of Research & Development, was part of the UK team who pioneered IVF. Since then over 5 million babies have been born worldwide, more than 40,000 of them are CARE babies.
IVF science has advanced very rapidly in recent years and CARE has been at the forefront of these developments, helping to pioneer ever more effective treatments and widening the range of people who can be helped.
Not everyone needs IVF, you may become pregnant with an IUI treatment. Other fertility issues may require additional treatments to give you your best chance of having a baby.