- In vitro fertilisation
"In vitro" fertilisation (IVF) is a process by which egg cells are fertilised by sperm outside the woman's womb, "
in vitro". IVF is a major treatment in infertilitywhen other methods of assisted reproductive technologyhave failed. The process involves hormonally controlling the ovulatory process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman's ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a fluid medium. The fertilised egg ( zygote) is then transferred to the patient's uteruswith the intent to establish a successful pregnancy.
The term "in vitro", from the
Latinroot meaning "in glass", is used, because early biological experiments involving cultivation of tissues outside the living organism from which they came, were carried out in glass containers such as " beakers, test tubes, or petri dishes." Today, the term "in vitro" is used to refer to any biological procedure that is performed outside the organism it would normally be occurring in, to distinguish it from an in vivoprocedure, where the tissue remains inside the living organism within which it is normally found. A colloquial term for babies conceived as the result of IVF, "test tube babies", refers to the tube-shaped containers of glass or plastic resin, called "test tubes," that are commonly used in chemistry labs and biology labs. However "in vitro" fertilisation is usually performed in the shallower containers called petri dishes. (Petri-dishes may also be made of plastic resins.) However, the IVF method of Autologous Endometrial Cocultureis actually performed on organic material, but is yet called "in vitro".
Initially IVF was developed to overcome
infertilitydue to problems of the fallopian tube, but it turned out that it was successful in many other infertility situations as well. The introduction of intracytoplasmic sperm injection(ICSI) addresses the problem of male infertility to a large extent.
For IVF to be successful it may be easier to say that it requires healthy
ova, sperm that can fertilise, and a uterusthat can maintain a pregnancy. Cost considerations generally place IVF as a treatment when other less expensive options have failed.
This means that IVF can be used for females who have already gone through
menopause. The donated oocytecan be fertilised in a crucible. If the fertilisation is successful, the fertilised eggwill be transferred into the uterus, within which it will develop into an embryo.
Treatment cycles are typically started on the third day of
menstruationand consist of a regimen of fertility medications to stimulate the development of multiple follicles of the ovaries. In most patients injectable gonadotropins (usually FSH analogues) are used under close monitoring. Such monitoring frequently checks the estradiollevel and, by means of gynecologic ultrasonography, follicular growth. Typically approximately 10 days of injections will be necessary. Spontanenous ovulation during the cycle is prevented by the use of GnRH agonists or GnRH antagonists, which block the natural surge of luteinising hormone(LH).
When follicular maturation is judged to be adequate,
human chorionic gonadotropin(β-hCG) is given. This agent, which acts as an analogue of luteinising hormone, would cause ovulation about 36 hours after injection, but a retrieval procedure takes place just prior to that, in order to recover the egg cells from the ovary. The eggs are retrieved from the patient using a transvaginal technique involving an ultrasound-guided needle piercing the vaginal wall to reach the ovaries. Through this needle follicles can be aspirated, and the follicular fluid is handed to the IVF laboratory to identify ova. The retrieval procedure takes about 20 minutes and is usually done under conscious sedationor general anesthesia.
In the laboratory, the identified eggs are stripped of surrounding cells and prepared for fertilisation. In the meantime,
semenis prepared for fertilisation by removing inactive cells and seminal fluid. If semen is being provided by a sperm donor, it will usually have been prepared for treatment before being frozen and quarantined, and it will be thawed ready for use. The sperm and the egg are incubated together (at a ratio of about 75,000:1) in the culture mediafor about 18 hours. By that time fertilisationshould have taken place and the fertilised egg would show two pronuclei. In situations where the sperm count is low, a single sperm is injected directly into the egg using intracytoplasmic sperm injection(ICSI). The fertilised egg is passed to a special growth medium and left for about 48 hours until the egg has reached the 6-8 cell stage.
Laboratories have developed grading methods to judge oocyte and
embryoquality. Typically, embryos that have reached the 6-8 cell stage are transferred three days after retrieval. In many American and Australian programmesFact|date=February 2007, however, embryos are placed into an extended culture system with a transfer done at the blastocyststage, especially if many good-quality day-3 embryos are available. Blastocyst stage transfers have been shown to result in higher pregnancy rates. [cite journal | author=Papanikolaou EG, Camus M, Kolibianakis EM, Van Landuyt L, Van Steirteghem A, Devroey P| title=In Vitro Fertilization with Single Blastocyst-Stage versus Single Cleavage-Stage Embryos | journal=N Engl J Med | year=2006 | pages=1139 | volume=354 | pmid=16540614 | doi = 10.1056/NEJMoa053524] . In Europe, day-2 transfers are common.
Embryos are graded by the embryologist based on the number of cells, evenness of growth and degree of fragmentation. The number to be transferred depends on the number available, the age of the woman and other health and diagnostic factors. In countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand, a maximum of two embryos are transferred except in unusual circumstances. For instance, a woman over 35 may have up to three embryos transferred. This is to limit the number of multiple pregnancies. The embryos judged to be the "best" are transferred to the patient's uterus through a thin, plastic
catheter, which goes through her vaginaand cervix. Several embryos may be passed into the uterus to improve chances of implantationand pregnancy.
According to a 2005 Swedish study published in the Oxford Journal 'Human Reproduction' 166 women were monitored starting one month before their IVF cycles and the results showed no significant correlation between psychological stress and their IVF outcomes. The study concluded with the recommendation to clinics that it might be possible to reduce the stress experienced by IVF patients during the treatment procedure by informing them of those findings. While psychological stress experienced during a cycle might not influence an IVF outcome, it is possible that the experience of IVF can result in stress that leads to depression. The financial consequences alone of IVF can influence anxiety and become overwhelming. However, for many couples, the alternative is infertility, and the experience of infertility itself can also cause extreme stress and depression.
The major complication of IVF is the risk of
multiple births. [http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2006/07/breeder_reaction.html] This is directly related to the practice of transferring multiple embryos at embryo transfer. Multiple births are related to increased risk of pregnancy loss, obstetrical complications, prematurity, and neonatal morbidity with the potential for long term damage. Strict limits on the number of embryos that may be transferred have been enacted in some countries (e.g., England) to reduce the risk of high-order multiples (triplets or more), but are not universally followed or accepted. Spontaneous splitting of embryos in the womb after transfer can occur, but this is rare and would lead to identical twins. A double blind, randomised study followed IVF pregnancies that resulted in 73 infants (33 boys and 40 girls) and reported that 8.7% of singleton infants and 54.2% of twins had a birth weight of < 2500 g [cite journal |author=Olivennes F, Mannaerts B, Struijs M, Bonduelle M, Devroey P |title=Perinatal outcome of pregnancy after GnRH antagonist (ganirelix) treatment during ovarian stimulation for conventional IVF or ICSI: a preliminary report |journal=Hum. Reprod. |volume=16 |issue=8 |pages=1588–91 |year=2001 |pmid=11473947 | doi = 10.1093/humrep/16.8.1588] . However recent evidence suggest that singleton offspring after IVF is at higher risk for lower birth weight for unknown reasons.
Another risk of ovarian stimulation is the development of
ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
If the underlying infertility is related to abnormalities in spermatogenesis, it is plausible, but too early to examine that male offspring is at higher risk for sperm abnormalities.
The issue of
birth defects remains a controversial topic in IVF. A majority of studies do not show a significant increase after use of IVF. Some studies suggest higher rates for ICSI , while others do not support this finding. [cite journal | author=Kurinczuk JJ | title=Safety issues in assisted reproduction technology. From theory to reality--just what are the data telling us about ICSI offspring health and future fertility and should we be concerned? | journal=Hum Reprod | year=2003 | pages=925–31 | volume=18 | issue=5| pmid=12721163 | doi = 10.1093/humrep/deg217]
Japan's government prohibited the use of in vitro fertilisation procedures for couples, inwhich both partners are infected with
HIVvirus. Despite the fact that the ethics committees previously allowed the Ogikubo Hospital, located in Tokyo, to use in vitro fertilisation for HIV couples, the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministryof Japandecided to block the practice. Hideji Hanabusa, the Vice President of the Ogikubo Hospital, states that together with his colleagues, he managed to develop a method through which scientists are able to remove the AIDS virus from sperm. [ [http://www.infoniac.com/health-fitness/japan-bans-in-vitro-fertilisation-for-hiv-couples.html Japan Bans in Vitro Fertilisation for HIV Couples] ]
If multiple embryos are generated, patients may choose to freeze embryos that are not transferred. Those embryos are placed in
liquid nitrogenand can be preserved for a long time. There are currently 500,000 frozen embryos in the United States. [http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2006/07/souls_on_ice.html] The advantage is that patients who fail to conceive may become pregnant using such embryos without having to go through a full IVF cycle. Or, if pregnancy occurred, they could return later for another pregnancy. Spare embryos resulting from fertility treatments may be donated to another woman or couple, and embryos may be created, frozen and stored specifically for transfer and donation by using donor eggs and sperm.
Cryopreservationof unfertilised mature oocytes has been successfully accomplished, e.g. in women who are likely to lose their ovarian reserve due to undergoing chemotherapy. [cite journal | author=Porcu E, Fabbri R, Damiano G, Fratto R, Giunchi S, Venturoli S | title=Oocyte cryopreservation in oncological patients | journal=Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol | year=2004 | pages=S14–6 | volume=113 Suppl 1 | pmid=15041124 | doi=10.1016/j.ejogrb.2003.11.004]
Ovarian tissue cryopreservation
Cryopreservation of ovarian tissue is of interest to women who want to preserve their reproductive function beyond the natural limit, or whose reproductive potential is threatened by cancer therapy. Research on this issue is promising.
There are several variations or improvements of IVF, such as ICSI, ZIFT, GIFT and PGD.
(ICSI) is a more recent development associated with IVF which allows the sperm to be directly injected in to the egg.This is used where sperm have difficulty penetrating the egg and in these cases the partner's or a donor's sperm may be used. ICSI is also used when sperm numbers are very low. ICSI results in success rates equal to IVF fertilisation.
Eggs are removed from the woman, fertilised and then placed in the woman's fallopian tubes rather than the uterus.
Eggs are removed from the woman, and placed in one of the fallopian tubes, along with the man's sperm. This allows fertilisation to take place inside the woman's body. Therefore, this variation is actually an
in vivofertilisation, and not an "in vitro" fertilisation.
PGD can be performed on embryos prior to the
embryo transfer. A similar, but more general test has been developed called Preimplantation Genetic Haplotyping(PGH).But success rate of PGD is much lower. (source needed)
An increasing number of fertility specialists and centers recognise the benefits of acupuncture and offer acupuncture as a part of their IVF protocol. Supportivecite journal |author=Anderson BJ, Haimovici F, Ginsburg ES, Schust DJ, Wayne PM |title=In vitro fertilisation and acupuncture: clinical efficacy and mechanistic basis |journal=Altern Ther Health Med |volume=13 |issue=3 |pages=38–48 |year=2007 |pmid=17515023] evidence from clinical trials and case series suggests that acupuncture may improve the success rate of IVF and the quality of life of patients undergoing IVF and that it is a safe adjunct therapy. A Systematic review and meta-analysis published in British Medical Journal [cite journal |author=Eric Manheimer, research associate1, Grant Zhang, assistant professor1, Laurence Udoff, assistant professor2, Aviad Haramati, professor3, Patricia Langenberg, professor and vice-chair4, Brian M Berman, professor1, Lex M Bouter, professor and vice chancellor (rector magnificus)5 |title=Effects of acupuncture on rates of pregnancy and live birth among women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: systematic review and meta-analysis |journal=BMJ |volume=2008;336(7643):545 |year=2008 (8 March) |pmid=16600225 |doi=10.1136/bmj.39471.430451.BE |pages=545] Complementing the embryo transfer process with acupuncture was associated with significant and clinically relevant improvements in clinical pregnancy (odds ratio 1.65), ongoing pregnancy (1.87), and live birth (1.91).
Mechanism of acupuncture
Scientific literature lists four mechanisms of how acupuncture can improve IVF outcomes ; these include
*Increased blood flow to uterus and ovaries
*Modulation in cytokines
*Reducing stress, anxiety and depression
Electro-acupuncture in oocyte retrieval for IVF
Electro-acupuncture has a proven analgesic effect in oocyte retrieval for IVFFact|date=February 2008.
The first pregnancy achieved following invitro human fertilisation of a human oocyte was reported in The Lancet from the Monash team in 1973, although it only lasted a few days and would today be called a biochemical pregnancy. This was followed by a tubal ectopic pregnancy from Steptoe and Edwards in 1976, resulting from the successful partnership with Bob Edwards which resulted in the birth of
Louise Brownin 1978, Courtney Cross, also in 1978, and another unnamed birth from Oldham, the world’s first IVF babies. This was followed by the birth of Candice Reed in Melbourne in 1980. It was the subsequent use of stimulated cycles with clomiphene citrate and the use of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) to control and time oocyte maturation, thus controlling the time of collection, that converted IVF from a research tool to a clinical treatment.
This was followed by a total of 14 pregnancies resulting in nine births in 1981 with the Monash university team. The Jones team in Norfolk, Virginia, further improved stimulated cycles by incorporating the use of a follicle-stimulating hormone (uHMG). This then became known as controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH). Another step forward was the use of gonadotrophin releasing hormone agonists (GnRHA), thus decreasing the requirement for monitoring by preventing premature ovulation, and more recently gonadotrophin releasing hormone antagonists (GnRH Ant), which have a similar function. The additional use of the oral contraceptive pill has allowed the scheduling of IVF cycles, which has made the treatment far more user-friendly both for staff and patients.
The ability to freeze and subsequently thaw and transfer embryos has also significantly improved the effectiveness of IVF. The other very significant milestone in IVF was the development of the intra cytoplasmic sperm injection of single sperms by Andre van Steirtegham in Brussels,1992. This has enabled men with minimal sperm production to achieve pregnancies, sometimes in conjunction with sperm recovery, using a testicular fine needle or open testicular biopsy, with some men even with kleinfelter’s syndrome occasionally achieving pregnancy. Thus, IVF has become the final solution for most fertility problems, moving from tubal disease to male factor, idiopathic subfertility, endometriosis, advancing maternal age, and anovulation not responding to ovulation induction.
The IVF process requires sperm, eggs and a uterus. To achieve a pregnancy any of these requirements can be provided by a third person:
third party reproduction. This has created additional ethical and legal concerns.Fact|date=May 2008
* In a few cases laboratory mix-ups (misidentified gametes, transfer of wrong embryos) have occurred leading to legal action against the IVF provider and complex paternity suits. An example is the case of a woman in California who received the embryo of another couple and was notified of this mistake after the birth of her son. [cite journal | author=Ayers C | title=Mother wins $1m for IVF mix-up but may lose son| journal=Timesonline | year=2004 | id= [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article465773.ece] | pages= | volume= | issue=]
Pregnancy past menopause
While menopause has set a natural barrier to further conception, IVF has allowed women to be pregnant in their fifties and sixties. Women whose uteruses have been appropriately prepared receive embryos that originated from an egg of an egg donor. Therefore, although these women do not have a genetic link with the child, they have an emotional link through pregnancy and childbirth. In many cases the genetic father of the child is the woman's partner. Even after menopause the uterus is fully capable to carry out its function. [cite journal | author=Parks, Jennifer A. | title=A closer look at reproductive technology and postmenopausal motherhood. | journal=CMAJ | year=1996 | pages=1189–91 | volume=154 | issue=8 | pmid=8612255 ]
Gays and Lesbians
A recent controversy in California focussed on the question of whether physicians opposed to homosexuality should be required to perform IVF for a lesbian couple. Guadalupe T. Benitez, a medical assistant from San Diego, sued doctors Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton of the North Coast Women's Care Medical Group after Brody told her that she had "religious-based objections to treating homosexuals to help them conceive children by artificial insemination," and Fenton refused to authorise a refill of her prescription for the fertility drug Clomid on the same grounds. [JM Appel. May Doctors Refuse Infertility Treatments to Gay Patients? "The Hastings Center Report", 2006;36(4):20-21.] [ M. Dolan. State high court may give gays another victory. "Los Angeles Times" May 29, 2008. ] The case,
North Coast Women's Care Medical Group v. Superior Courtwas decided in favor of Benitez on August 19, 2008. [M. Dolan. California doctors can't refuse treatment to gays on religious grounds, court rules. Los Angeles Times.19th August 2008] .
Roman Catholic Churchis opposed to most kinds of "in vitro" fertilisation (although GIFT is accepted at certain conditions because fertilisation takes place inside the body and not inside a Petri dish [http://www2.loras.edu/~CatholicHE/Arch/Sexuality/Gamete.html] ) and advocates that infertility is a call from God to adoptchildren. According to the Catholic Church, it "infringe [s] the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage." [Catechism of the Catholic Church [http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm#III section 2376] ] Also, embryos are sometimes discarded in the process, resulting in their demise. Catholics and many people of other faiths see embryos as human lives with the same rights as all others and, therefore, view the destruction of embryos as unacceptable.
Coping with IVF
Due to the emotional and financial aspects of infertility treatment, many feel isolated and sometimes become depressed. Online support forums and message boards have become a popular way for sufferers to exchange both information and support. Popular forums include [http://www.preventinfertility.info International Agency for Prevention of Infertility (IAPI)] [http://www.fertilityfriends.co.uk Fertility Friends] , [http://www.ivfconnections.com IVFConnections] , [http://www.ivf.ca IVF.ca] , [http://www.ivf-infertility.com Ivf-Infertility.com] , [http://www.inciid.org INCIID] , and [http://www.ivfworld.com IVF World] .
International Agency for Prevention of Infertility (IAPI)
[http://www.preventinfertility.info Most updated Information on prevention of infertility ]
International Agency for Prevention of Infertility (IAPI)
* [http://www.preventinfertility.info Most updated Information on prevention of infertility ]
* [http://www.hfea.gov.uk Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority]
* [http://www.hfea.gov.uk/en/1131.html Guide to infertility]
* [http://www.helponpregnancy.com/ivf/ IVF Forums: get help & support others]
* [http://www.oneatatime.org.uk How to reduce risks of multiple pregnancy from IVF]
* [http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/ART02/index.htm CDC Report on IVF Clinics]
* [http://www.formyodds.com Take-home baby report for women considering IVF]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/babies Test Tube Babies on PBS]
* [http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/archive/6992ed.htm Ethical debate: In vitro fertilisation (BMJ)]
* [http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=210 It's official: Kanupriya's India’s first test-tube girl]
*citation|last1=S W|first1=Seng|last2=C T |first2=Yeong|last3=S F |first3=Loh|last4=N |first4=Sadhana|last5=S K E |first5=Loh|contribution=In-vitro fertilisation in women aged 40 years and above|journal=Singapore Medical Journal |volume=46|issue=3|year=2005|location=Singapore|publisher=Singapore Medical Association|pages=p.132|contribution-url=http://www.sma.org.sg/smj/4603/4603a4.pdf|accessdate=2008-04-16
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3091241.stm BBC profile of Louise Brown (July, 2003)]
* [http://www.infertilityspecialistnewyork.com/ivf-CRC-success-rates-fertilization-manhattan-brooklyn-bronx-new-york-ny.htm In Vitro Fertilization IVF Success Rates Published from a New York IVF centre]
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