Medical Q&As

IVF - what does it involve?

What is IVF?

The letters IVF stand for in-vitro fertilisation, which literally means fertilisation in a glass. IVF effectively bypasses the fallopian tubes and is used in situations where the tubes may be blocked, damaged or even absent. It is also used in some cases of male infertility. The woman is given fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles, which are the tiny fluid filled sacs that contain the ovum or egg. An ultrasound scan is used to measure the size and number of egg follicles produced under the influence of the fertility drugs. Some days later the woman is given an injection of a special hormone that triggers release of the follicles from the ovaries, which mimics the natural process of ovulation. The eggs are then collected vaginally within the next 48 hours. This procedure is performed under the guidance of the ultrasound scanner and is performed under general or local anaesthesia. The harvested eggs are then placed in a special incubator and the sperm is added to the eggs. This combination is then incubated for a further 24 to 48 hours. The fertilised egg is called a zygote, which proceeds through a series of subdivisions. It first divides into two and proceeds through a series of further subdivisions and henceforth is referred to as an embryo. Within 48 to 72 hours of the original egg collection the newly formed embryo is transferred to the uterus in a procedure referred to as an embryo transfer. From that point onwards the technological interventions of IVF have been completed and the pregnancy proceeds to term as a normal pregnancy. There are two units in Dublin providing this service that both have websites and you might like to view their information through the following links: and also have a comprehensive article on this subject which can be accessed through the following link: