In vitro fertilisation (IVF) refers to a procedure designed to assist infertility and produce a pregnancy as a direct result of aided medical intervention. In general, the ovaries are stimulated by a combination of fertility medications and then one or more oocyte(s) are removed from the ovarian follicles and fertilised in the laboratory (‘in vitro’), after which, one or more embryo(s) are transferred into the uterine cavity. These steps occur over about a two-week interval of time, which is called an IVF cycle.
A complete infertility evaluation may be performed on both partners prior to embarking on IVF. IVF has been made available to women with other causes of infertility, including one or more of the following: Ovarian failure, uterine factor, tubal factor (IVF is primary therapy if tubes are completely blocked), severe male factor infertility, diminished ovarian reserve, females over 40 years of age, endometriosis, ovesity and heavy smoker.
In general, in the absence of absolute impediments for conception (blocked fallopian tubes, severe male factor), Couples may be offered three to six cycles of superovulation and intrauterine insemination (IUI) before proceeding to IVF.
It is not unreasonable to offer IVF as a primary treatment option to couples where the female partner is over 40 years of age. The upper limit for performing IVF without donor eggs is controversial and varies by site, but typically ranges from 41 to 45 years of age.