In vitro fertilization (IVF) joins sperm and an egg outside of the body to make an embryo. The embryo can then be put into a woman's uterus.
Fallopian Tube, Ovary, and Uterus
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IVF can be done when pregnancy does not happen naturally.
It is most often done when infertility is due to:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
During egg harvesting, the doctor may give:
The embryo transfer does not use anesthesia.
An ultrasound probe with a needle is guided into the vagina. The needle is used to remove fluid from the follicles of the ovaries. This fluid contains eggs. It is placed in a dish and kept in an incubator.
A sperm sample from the woman's partner or from a donor is added to the eggs. Sperm may be injected into an egg to improve the chance of fertilization. The eggs are then monitored. Once fertilized, early cell division begins and embryos develop.
About 2 to 6 days after fertilization, a tube is inserted into the vagina and guided through the cervix and into the uterus. One or more embryos are placed into the uterus. The tube is removed.
Pain and cramping are common for a few days after the egg harvesting and transfer. Medicine and home care can help.
You will be able to go home the same day.
Right after the transfer, the staff may have you rest for a few hours before going home. You will also be given an appointment to return for a pregnancy test.
Some activities may be limited after the transfer.
Call the doctor if you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Reproductive Facts—American Society for Reproductive Medicine
The Infertility Awareness Association of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Lindsay TJ, Vitrikas KR. Evaluation and treatment of infertility. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Mar 1;91(5):308-314.
Treatment of infertility in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/treatment-of-infertility-in-women . Accessed August 5, 2020.
What is in vitro fertilization (IVF)? American Society for Reproductive Medicine website. Available at: https://www.reproductivefacts.org/faqs/frequently-asked-questions-about-infertility/q05-what-is-in-vitro-fertilization/. Accessed August 5, 2020.
What is IVF? The National Infertility Association website. Available at: https://resolve.org/what-are-my-options/treatment-options/what-is-ivf/. Published Summer 2012. Accessed August 5, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 02/24/2021