In vitro fertilization: Why do people do it?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology in which sperm-to-egg fertilization to create an embryo occurs outside the body. Once the egg is fertilized, an IVF physician then transfers the resulting embryo to a uterus. Prospective parents may use this method for several reasons.

In some cases, same-sex couples may use IVF to implement pregnancy via donated eggs or sperm. Other couples may use IVF as a response to unusual health conditions; the method may be an alternative for those who cannot otherwise carry a child in utero. Other common reasons for the use of IVF include:

  • Issues with sperm: This includes poor sperm mobility, insufficient production or abnormalities in sperm size.
  • Genetic concerns: While not all genetic disorders may be prevented by technological measures, IVF provides an opportunity to take precautions by genetically testing the embryo’s for disease-carrying chromosomes when using alternative forms of reproduction.
  • Endometriosis: This condition can impair the function of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
  • Issues with fallopian tubes: Prospective parents may elect IVF if blockage or damage to fallopian tubes prevents natural fertilization.
  • Other health reasons: If someone is about to start chemotherapy or other forms of disease treatment that compromise their fertility, they may store sperm or eggs and choose to implement IVF later in life.

If you are curious to learn more, you should discuss IVF and other assisted reproduction technology topics with your doctor. What’s more, these are not simple matters. Especially if a surrogate or third-party egg, sperm, or embryo donor is involved, there is also a need for legal protection and thorough documentation and consultation to insure establishment of the intended parentage of the respective parties. Even  if neither a surrogate nor a third-party donor is involved, couples using IVF should enter into clear agreements prior to IVF regarding the possession, control, and use of the resulting embryos in the event of divorce or other dispute between the creating parties.