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In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In Vitro Fertilization – IVF Treatment Abroad

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the procedure in which a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg are joined in a laboratory dish. “In vitro” means “inside the glass” and refers to experimental biology procedures conducted using the extracted and isolated components of an organism. Thus, away from the biological surroundings, more convenient and detailed analysis can be done.

On the other hand, fertilization refers to the biological process in which the sperm is attached and entered the egg. When the in vitro fertilization process has successfully started, the fertilized egg is called embryo.

IVF is performed to help a woman become pregnant. IVF treatment does not treat infertility in men, but it does tackle many causes of infertility, including:

  • Advanced maternal age
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease which blocks the fallopian tubes.
  • Endometriosis

For men who suffer from decreased sperm count or blockage, the procedure related to in vitro fertilization is called Intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

The IVF Procedure

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) uses medical techniques to help a woman become pregnant and the IVF procedure is one of these techniques. The five basic steps to IVF treatment are:

  • Stimulation (super ovulation) – in which fertility drugs are provided to boost egg production.
  • Egg retrieval (follicular aspiration) – a minor surgery in which eggs are removed from the body. It consists of an outpatient procedure under pain medication, performed twice in each ovary. A needle is inserted through the vagina into the ovary and follicles which contain the eggs and the suction device pulls out the eggs.
  • Insemination and fertilization – the best eggs are selected and stored in an environmentally controlled chamber, next to the man’s sperm. A few hours after insemination, the procedure in which the sperm is injected inside the egg (called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), the egg becomes fertilized and turns into an embryo.
  • Embryo culture – for the first week, the embryo is checked to make sure the cells are dividing actively inside.
  • Embryo transfer – the process in which the embryo is implanted inside the woman’s womb. A catheter is inserted through the female cervix containing the embryo.

The desired result of IVF procedure is a pregnancy that can be carried to full term and a healthy offspring.

Risks of the IVF Procedure

Frustration is a common feeling among couples dealing with infertility. In vitro fertilization requires commitment at different levels: financial, emotional and physical.

Among the conditions women suffer from fertility medicines, we find:

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Rapid weight-gain
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bowel and bladder damage
  • Infection
  • Negative reactions to anesthesia

Several times a day the woman needs to inject herself with hormones and in some cases it can cause OHSS or ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, with unpleasant side-effects such as excessive fluids in the chest and abdomen.

Multiple pregnancies and an increased risk of premature birth can also be a complication when more than one embryo is placed inside the womb.

IVF procedure is expensive and most insurance companies do not cover for the procedure, so the patient has to pay the full cost up-front. In vitro fertilization cost can go up to $17,000, which is a telling argument why people choose to go abroad.

In Vitro Fertilization Abroad

American couples struggling with infertility are having IVF abroad in ever rising numbers. The estimated figures of infertile women who, overwhelmed by the U.S. medical expenses, cross the globe for IVF procedure are beyond 10,000 per year.

In less-expensive countries like South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Thailand, Greece, Barbados, Cyprus and Turkey top clinics offer state-of-the-art services and medical expertise. In vitro fertilization abroad can cost 70% less than in the U.S., and yet another attraction is the availability of cheap donor eggs. Often tired of waiting for unresponsive insurance companies and long waiting lists, patients seeking IVF abroad are usually pleasantly surprised at the efficiency and quality of this area of medical tourism.

A smaller segment of medical tourists are forced to look for options abroad because due to ethical or religious prohibitions they cannot have in vitro fertilization in their homeland. Medical tourism offers cost-saving IVF abroad and the possibility of selecting the ideal destination from among countless package options including medical fees, travel costs and accommodation.