The first birth through in vitro fertilization in 1978 dramatically increased awareness of clinical alternatives for the infertile couple. In vitro fertilization, or IVF, involves the careful stimulation of multiple egg production in a woman using a series of hormone injections or oral medications.

Under ultrasound guidance, the eggs are harvested from the ovary at the optimal time for fertilization. The eggs are taken to a laboratory where they are combined with sperm that have been treated to enhance their fertilization capacity. Approximately 48 hours later, the resulting embryo, or fertilized egg, is transferred into the woman’s uterus.

Important points when considering IVF include the qualifications and experience of the physician and staff, support services available, cost, convenience, and rate of successful pregnancies.

Once regarded as experimental, advanced assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF are now considered acceptable treatment alternatives for many infertile couples.