In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a complex series of procedures used to help with fertility or prevent genetic problems and assist with the conception of a child. During IVF, mature eggs are collected (retrieved) from ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. Then the fertilized egg (embryo) or eggs (embryos) are transferred to a uterus. One full cycle of IVF takes about three weeks. Sometimes these steps are split into different parts and the process can take longer. IVF is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology. The procedure can be done using your own eggs and your partner’s sperm. Or IVF may involve eggs, sperm, or embryos from a known or anonymous donor. In some cases, a gestational carrier — a woman who has an embryo implanted in her uterus — might be used.
Your chances of having a healthy baby using IVF depend on many factors, such as your age and the cause of infertility. In addition, IVF can be time-consuming, expensive, and invasive. If more than one embryo is transferred to your uterus, IVF can result in a pregnancy with more than one fetus (multiple pregnancies).
Sometimes, IVF is offered as a primary treatment for infertility in women over age 40. IVF can also be done if you have certain health conditions. For example, IVF may be an option if you or your partner has: