In Vitro Fertilization Law and Legal Definition

In vitro fertilization is one of several types of Assisted Reproductive Technology that is comonly used to help couples who are experiencing difficulty in conceiving a child, or in carrying the child through a full term pregnancy.

To begin the procedure, the woman must undergo about two weeks of intensive preparation in order to prepare a proper environment in the woman to increase the chances of recovering several healthy and mature eggs. This preparation includes hormonal therapy with fertility drugs, in order to induce superovulation, which is designed to produce multiple eggs. Blood tests and ultrasound scans of the woman's ovaries are used to determine the optimal time to retrieve the eggs from the ovary. The optimal time will generally be just before ovulation when the eggs are almost ready for fertilization.

At the proper time, an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia will allow the female's eggs to be visualized by ultrasound and retrieved from the ovary by placing a needle through the vaginal wall. The mild discomfort that the patient feels has been described as similar to a Pap smear or endometrial biopsy. After a short rest, the patient will be able to go home and resume normal activities.

The fluid from the follicles is examined under the microscope by the embryologist, who locates the eggs and keeps them in the laboratory under physiologic conditions. The embryologist will place the sperm with the eggs when they are ready for fertilization. Usually, the eggs will develop into cleaving pre-embryos, whose cells divide 2 or 3 times to become preimplantation embryos (pre-embryos). They are maintained in laboratory dishes, in a nutrient mixture which acts as a substitute for the environment that would otherwise have been provided by the fallopian tubes.

Using a special catheter, the couple's pre-embryos will be passed through the vagina and into the uterus at the time the pre-embryos would normally have reached the uterus (2+ days after retrieval).

After the pre-embryo placement in the uterus, the patient will lie quietly in a bed for about an hour, and then will return home.

Although the possibility of a continuing pregnancy being achieved through the use of In Vitro Fertilization has improved to the point where between one out of four to six procedures are successful, the possibility of a pregnancy being achieved for any single patient cannot be predicted, primarily because there are so many variables and possible complications. Although the chance of success varies from case to case, a thorough evaluation is required to predict the probability of pregnancy in any given situation.