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How does in vitro fertilization work?

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Quick Answer

In vitro fertilization works by bringing an egg and sperm together in a laboratory setting to achieve the goal of fertilization, according to WebMD. After the egg is fertilized, it is implanted back into the uterus with the hopes that conception takes place and an embryo forms.

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Full Answer

The process of IVF starts a few weeks before ovulation. Many women are given a drug to control ovulation so that eggs can be more readily collected, according to WebMD. The doctor will also monitor the eggs' development over the next few weeks. Once they are mature, they are harvested with a small needle. Patients undergoing this procedure are usually sedated and given pain medicine when they wake up. Soon after, sperm is collected, either by a donor specified by the woman or from a sperm bank. The eggs and sperm are then placed in a glass dish so that the sperm can fertilize the eggs. After two to five days, the healthiest eggs are selected and set aside. Between one and three eggs are then implanted into the uterus through the use of a catheter inserted in the cervix. The remainder can be frozen for future attempts. Success rates for women under the age of 34 are between 30 and 40 percent, with rates dropping after age 35. Older women who choose to use IVF often use donor eggs, which increases their chances of becoming pregnant despite their own age.

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