“Infertility is a really large problem in the United States and all over the world,” says Pavna Brahma, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.
In fact, approximately one in eight couples who attempt pregnancy has difficulty conceiving a child. With the help of modern fertility treatment, particularly in vitro fertilization (IVF), couples are realizing their dreams of becoming parents.
“In vitro fertilization is a great technology to help couples conceive,” says Dr. Brahma.
The process consists of five steps:
The woman is given injection hormones to stimulate healthy egg development. IVF helps her produce more eggs than she would in a normal month.
“In a typical ovulatory month, we recruit and ovulate one egg,” explains Dr. Brahma. “With IVF, our goal is to make 10 or 15 eggs.”
Eggs are then collected from the ovaries via a minor surgery during which the woman is sedated and the eggs are retrieved trans-vaginally.
“We use a small needle guide to pass a needle over a trans-vaginal ultrasound to remove fluid from the follicles,” she explains.
On the same day, sperm is collected from the male partner.
The egg and sperm are then combined in a lab through varying technologies of fertilization, such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
“The embryologists will observe the embryos as they divide from two cells to four cells and then eight cells,” says Dr. Brahma. “We watch as they have a growth, sometimes up to five days out at the blastocyst stage, where they have 100 or 125 cells.”
During an embryo transfer, a woman’s uterus is watched by ultrasound and a small catheter is placed into the uterine cavity through the cervix. The embryo(s) are then placed in the uterus. Ten days later, the woman returns to the clinic for a blood test to determine if she’s pregnant.
“Going through IVF is a process that we endure together,” says Dr. Brahma. “A really exciting moment is getting to make a phone call to a patient giving her the great news that it has worked and her pregnancy test is positive. It’s one of the most exciting phone calls I get to make.”
To find a reproductive endocrinologist, visit Piedmont.org.