Resources

Reproduction Basics

The process of reproduction involves a lot of steps. A male must produce sperm, which must come into contact with a mature egg at the right time. A female must undergo monthly menstrual cycles to release (ovulate) these mature eggs so that fertilization can occur. And then the fertilized egg (embryo) must find its way into the uterus, implant, and continue to grow. A healthy pregnancy results when all of these steps work together in perfect harmony, primarily under the control of reproductive hormones.

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Male Reproduction

The male reproductive system has two primary functions: to produce sperm and the hormone testosterone. Testosterone drives the production of sperm, the male gamete, which is produced in the testicles. Sperm then move through a series of organs before exiting the body during an ejaculation.

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IVF Monitoring

IVF monitoring has two components. First, routine ultrasounds are performed to measure the follicles (which contain eggs) in the ovaries. Second, blood is obtained to measure the blood hormone levels. IVF monitoring helps your healthcare provider determine how your body is responding to the IVF medications, how close you are to ovulation, and if you are at risk for OHSS.

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IVF Medications

IVF medications have two main functions. First, they stimulate the maturation of multiple eggs so multiple mature eggs can be retrieved. Second, they prevent premature ovulation from occurring. If this occurs, no eggs can be retrieved during the egg retrieval. At times, other medications are also prescribed for an IVF cycle.

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IVF Acronyms and Abbreviations

In vitro fertilization (IVF) and infertility are complex topics that can be difficult to understand. On top of that, both subjects are compiled with acronyms and abbreviations. This is a list of the most common acronyms and abbreviations that you may encounter when you are learning about IVF and infertility.

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Female Reproduction

There are two main functions of the female reproductive system. First, it allows for the maturation and release (ovulation) of an egg each menstrual cycle. This egg has the potential to be fertilized by sperm and implant into the uterine lining. The second function of the female reproductive system is to carry a pregnancy to term. Certain abnormalities can create obstacles in either of these functions and cause infertility.

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Common Causes of Male Infertility

Certain abnormalities can inhibit sperm production and transport, which can cause infertility.

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Sperm Info and Prep

Sperm cells are the male gametes that are required to fertilize an egg. Sperm cells contain the genetic information (DNA) that is passed onto the offspring when fertilization occurs. In assisted reproduction, a sperm sample is obtained and washed (cleaned) prior to insemination. It’s important that a sperm sample has a normal count, motility (movement), and morphology (normal appearance), but any abnormalities in these parameters can often be overcome with ICSI.

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PGT

Preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) involves removing 5-10 cells from an embryo and analyzing the DNA inside those cells. This screening test determines if the embryo’s cells have certain genetic abnormalities, such as an extra or missing chromosome. Embryos that have a high number of normal cells are recommended for embryo transfer.

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Insemination

All mature eggs must be inseminated in order to develop into embryos that can be transferred. Insemination refers to the exposure of sperm to an egg, during which time the sperm should deposit its DNA into the egg (this is known as fertilization). Eggs can be inseminated through standard insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

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Embryo Freezing and Thawing

Embryos that develop in the IVF lab may need to be frozen for future use for multiple reasons. These embryos are coated in a cryoprotectant medium and stored in a liquid nitrogen tank. At a later date, an embryo can be thawed (warmed) by removing it from the liquid nitrogen and safely warming it through a series of media drops.

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Embryo Transfers

Embryos that reach a specific stage of development are eligible for transfer into a woman’s uterus. As the uterus is visualized with an ultrasound, the embryo is loaded into a catheter and injected into the uterus. Over the next few days, the embryo should implant into the uterine lining (endometrium) to initiate a pregnancy.

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Embryo Development

All embryos begin as one cell, which is known as a zygote. Over the course of a few days in the IVF lab, an embryo should divide into over 100 cells! These cells eventually develop into both the fetus and the placenta. At this point, the embryos are evaluated and graded based on their physical characteristics.

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Egg Retrievals

During an egg (oocyte) retrieval, eggs are collected from their follicles in the ovaries. These eggs are then cleaned and graded before being frozen or inseminated in the IVF lab.

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