In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an infertility treatment that brings together an egg and sperm (creating an embryo) in a laboratory. One or more of these embryos is then placed in a woman's uterus to create a pregnancy. IVF is the most successful form of assisted reproductive technology.
Who Would Benefit From IVF?
Your Rush provider will discuss if IVF is your best option. IVF is often recommended if you or your partner have any of the following:
- Infertility: If you've struggled to conceive after 12 months or more of regular sex, or 6 months if you're age 35 or older, you may be facing infertility. Sometimes infertility has a cause, other times its unexplained. We treat both male and female infertility.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis can often impact the function of your ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes, making it harder to conceive.
- Fibroids: Although these tumors are benign, they can interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg.
- Genetic concerns: IVF allows you to screen your embryos for certain genetic disorders before implantation. This additional step in the IVF process can assess your risk of having a baby with conditions such as fragile X, cystic fibrosis or Huntington's disease.
- Pre- or post-treatment cancer: Radiation and chemotherapy can lead to fertility problems in both men and women. Eggs and sperm can be frozen prior to or after treatment and used for IVF at a later stage.
- Fertility preservation: IVF allows you to preserve your eggs or embryos for potential future pregnancies. You may consider this for a number of reasons, including age or before sterilization or gender-affirming surgery.
IVF is also used for surrogacy — when a woman carries a baby for you — or when using donor eggs, sperm or embryos to become pregnant.
How Does IVF Work?
While the exact IVF process depends on your situation and your doctor's recommendations, IVF typically involves the following steps:
- Follicle stimulation: You will take fertility medications, which you inject yourself, to boost your egg production.
- Sperm collection: Your male partner or donor will provide a sperm sample.
- Egg retrieval: With guidance from an ultrasound, your doctor will insert a needle through your vagina to the ovaries and egg sacs (follicles). A suction device will carefully retrieve the eggs and transfer them to a laboratory dish. This procedure is typically done under anesthesia and you will go home that day.
- Fertilization: Next, an embryologist will evaluate the quality of your eggs and combine the best eggs with the sperm. In some cases, laboratory staff will inject the sperm directly into the egg for the best chance of fertilization.
- Embryo culture and transfer: Once the fertilized eggs divide, it's called an embryo. Each embryo is biopsied by our in-house lab and graded according to a report card of positive embryo qualities. After three to five days, your fertility specialist will implant the embryo with the best "grade" in your uterus. You and your doctor may choose to implant more than one embryo, and any unused embryos can be frozen for later use.
- Pregnancy test: About 10 to 14 days after the egg retrieval, your doctor will schedule a blood test to confirm whether or not you're pregnant.
Is IVF Safe?
IVF is a safe, but complex, health procedure. It's important to understand how IVF works, as well as the potential risks for you and a future pregnancy.
- Multiple births: IVF increases the risks of multiple births when more than one embryo is implanted. Twin, triplet or other multiples pregnancies carry a higher risk of early labor and potential birth complications.
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome: The fertility drugs can overstimulate your ovaries, causing them to feel swollen and painful. Symptoms typically last a week or two, and if you become pregnant, can last several weeks.
- Egg-retrieval procedure complications: Although rare, there is a risk that the needle used during egg retrieval could cause bleeding or damage to nearby organs or tissues.
- Stress: Infertility and IVF treatment can be financially, emotionally and physically difficult. You may benefit from seeing a mental health expert to help you cope with these challenges.
If you have had cancer, you may wonder if the hormones in IVF could trigger a recurrence. Research continues to show that the short-term use of these hormones does not advance or increase your risk of developing cancer.
And, as with any pregnancy, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies are possible outcomes, which often increase with maternal age.
If you are considering IVF to start your family, contact Rush Center for Advanced Reproductive Care for an initial consultation with a Rush infertility expert. Or your current provider can refer you to the center to see if this treatment could be right for you.
Rush Excellence in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
- Nationally ranked for gynecologic care: Rush University Medical Center's gynecology program is ranked among the nation's best by U.S. News & World Report.
- A long history of treating complex cases: Rush Center for Advanced Reproductive Care is one of Chicago's longest-running fertility programs. Our infertility specialists are successful at treating even the most complex cases, including patients who have not become pregnant with past IVF procedures.
- In-house laboratory offers efficient and expert results: Rush University Medical Center houses both an assisted reproductive laboratory and a full-service clinical andrology laboratory within our Rush Center for Advanced Reproductive Care. They offer comprehensive diagnostic and genetic testing, therapeutic processing of semen samples and cyrobanking (sperm, embryo and oocyte storage). We also partner with Rush University Medical Center’s genetic disorders program to determine your risk of passing on certain genes to your baby.
- Innovative approaches to fertilization: Rush experts take innovative approaches to increase your chances of becoming pregnant. For example, we offer assisted hatching, a procedure that could help the embryo better implant into the uterine wall and lead to pregnancy.
- Member of SART: Rush University Medical Center is a member of the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), the leading organization for infertility professionals. SART clinics commit to the highest standards of patient care and report clinic outcomes so patients can make informed decisions when choosing their providers.
- Supporting your path to pregnancy: We are committed to affirming care, partnering with LGBTQ+ individuals to determine if IVF treatment is the best option for pregnancy. Our specialists have extensive experience finding solutions to help all individuals grow their families.
- Understanding the financial commitment: We understand that IVF is a significant expense for many families, and we work hard to be transparent with all costs so you can plan accordingly. Before moving forward with your treatment, we will verify your insurance benefits and project an expected cost. We offer packages for more efficient pricing and a discount for those procedures not covered by insurance. If you have financial questions at any time, we have dedicated staff to help you.