IVF stands for in vitro fertilization. In vitro is the medical term for when a process is performed outside of a person’s body, usually in a test tube or culture dish. IVF treatment is when an egg is removed from the ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory.
The IVF treatment process involves stimulating ovulation with hormonal medication to produce lots of eggs. These eggs are then carefully collected to be fertilized. If the eggs are successfully fertilized, one or two of the embryos are selected to be inserted back into the uterus.
The first successful IVF procedure was carried out in 1978 and Professor Simon Fishel, who founded CARE Fertility, was part of the UK team who pioneered IVF. Since then over 5 million babies have been born worldwide, more than 50,000 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.
If you’re struggling to start a family, IVF treatment could help make your dream come true.
There are lots of reasons you might choose IVF to start your family, from conditions that cause infertility, to your age and family circumstance. They can include:
Whilst some conditions above, such as blocked fallopian tubes will require IVF to enable conception, other conditions or circumstances don't necessarily mean you need IVF to start a family. There are many fertility treatment options available which might be better suited to you. Find out if IVF treatment is suitable for you.
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
Read more about the IVF Treatment procedure, and the process step by step.
A typical IVF treatment takes approximately seven weeks from when you take your first drug, until your pregnancy test.
According to the HFEA, birth rates from IVF in the UK have steadily increased over time with the average birth rate per embryo transferred standing at 24% in 2018, compared with just 7% in 1991.
In 2019, the years of study in HFEA Statistical release published in 2021, they found:
Of course, the likelihood of success with IVF varies person to person as everyone’s circumstances vary. One thing you can be sure of is that at CARE we will do everything we can to maximise your chances of starting a family.
As with many medical procedures, there is an element of risk involved with IVF treatment. These risks include:
At CARE the health and comfort of our patients is of the utmost importance to us. We do everything we can to minimise risk during IVF, and we offer support throughout your fertility journey.
IVF Treatment costs vary across the UK, but a procedure most typically costs £3,450–£3,750.
For more detailed information on how much IVF costs read our IVF and fertility treatment costs, where you can also find fee schedules for our different clinics.
IVF is available on the NHS, but the process and criteria vary across different Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). You read more about the process of getting IVF on the NHS, and NHS Funding for IVF.
Not everyone experiencing infertility problems needs IVF -you may become pregnant with an IUI treatment. It may be that you require fertility drugs, or that you require additional IVF treatments. Other fertility issues may require additional treatments to give you your best chance of having a baby.