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Advantages and Disadvantages of In Vitro Fertilization

written by: weborglodge • edited by: BStone • updated: 12/24/2010

If you and your partner are like the 10 percent of infertile couples in the United States, you may consider the advantages and disadvantages of in vitro fertilization as a viable way to experience child birth. More than 250,000 children have been conceived using this method.

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    What Is In Vitro Fertilization?

    baby boy In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the process of assisted fertilization. The primary advantage, of course, is being able to conceive despite medical conditions which prevent it through natural means or other causes of infertility. Egg are fertilized in a laboratory setting and implanted in the woman.

    Medications in the weeks following implantation help ensure implantation in the uterus. Pregnancy can be confirmed through a blood test after about two weeks following implantation.

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    Advantages of In Vitro Fertilization

    Improvements in the procedure have made the process less invasive, with several stages of the procedure done in a doctor's office rather than in a hospital. It also provides a means for women to avoid surgery in cases where there is damage to the fallopian tubes to correct these types of infertility problems.

    The success rate is about that of conceiving naturally, with younger women more likely to conceive than older women. The medical evidence also suggests that the procedure is safe. For some couples, the prospect of having a child of their own outweighs any risks associated with the procedure.

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    Disadvantages of In Vitro Fertilization

    Any medical procedure carries a certain degree of risk. In vitro fertilization is no exception. Because hormonal levels are being manipulated in the woman, there is a slight risk of a condition known as "Ovarian Hyper stimulation Syndrome," or an over-stimulation of the ovaries. A woman may feel nauseated or experience a lack of appetite. In more severe cases, the gastrointestinal symptoms may be more pronounced. The symptoms however, soon resolve themselves.

    During the procedure, more than one embryo is typically implanted to increase the success rate. However, there is a risk more than one embryo will implant, leading to multiple births.This can be a major disadvantage if you and your partner are unprepared for this situation. Statistics show that nearly two-thirds of births were of a single baby.

    Another thing to consider is the cost. In vitro fertilization is not often the first choice for many couples because of this factor. The cost of in vitro fertilization may range upwards of $12,000 or more. Before moving forward, you may want to consult with your insurance company to see what expenses may be covered. Unfortunately, financial barriers may make this procedure inappropriate for some couples.

    Other issues surround personal feelings. If viable sperm or eggs cannot be retrieved, you may be forced to consider a donor. Some couples may be uncomfortable with this prospect. It also adds a legal aspect which may further affect your thoughts.

    In vitro fertilization may not be the ideal method for all couples and causes of infertility. It does offer another choice for couples wishing to conceive. A frank discussion with your doctor can help you and your partner decide if in vitro fertilization is right for you.

    Photo by Justyna Furmanczyk, stock.xchng

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    References

    American Pregnancy Association: In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) www.americanpregnancy.org

    eMedicineHealth: In Vitro Fertilization www.emedicinehealth.com

    National Institutes of Health: In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) nlm.nih.go