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Everything You Need To Know About In Vitro Fertilization

So you’ve decided to have a baby and, both thanks to and in spite of science, there’s almost nothing that can stop you. There may have been roadblocks in the past, like infertility, genetic disorders, or the biological barriers, but all that can be put behind you thanks to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Here’s everything you need to know when writing your pros/cons list, IVF-style.

READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to IVF

What Actually Is IVF?

IVF is a procedure in which sperm fertilizes an egg in a lab, and then a doctor inserts the egg back into the mother. The first IVF procedure occurred in 1977 England after several successful tests with rabbits. Lesley Brown, who had a blocked fallopian tube, and her husband John pursued alternative fertility treatments with Dr. Patrick Steptoe. That November, Dr. Steptoe implanted the fertilized embryo into Lesley’s uterus. Almost 9 months later, he delivered Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby. She was happy, healthy and a media blitz.

How Does IVF Work?

There are 5 basic medical steps in the IVF procedure. First, hormonal fertility medications are prescribed to stimulate egg production. Then, your doctor will retrieve the eggs through a procedure similar to amniocentesis (the doctor inserts a long needle into your wife’s ovaries to retrieve her eggs, but don’t worry, they’ll drug the hell out of her).

A sperm sample is then prepared for insemination, which is when the sperm and eggs are mixed together and stored in a laboratory dish to “encourage” fertilization (no word yet on if they light candles, dim the lights, and play Sade to up the vibe). If there’s a lower probability of fertilization, then an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) — a single sperm inserted directly into an egg — may be used.

Finally, the doctor transfers the fertilized eggs (now called embryos) into your partner’s uterus 3-5 days after egg fertilization. If the procedure is successful, then implantation typically occurs 6-10 days after the initial egg retrieval.

The Possible Side Effects Of Undergoing IVF

There are, of course, procedural risks for IVF. Your wife’s fertility medication side effects resemble a combination of PMS and menopause, while the actual procedures include mild cramping, bloating, constipation, and breast tenderness. The procedure can also induce more serious issues, such as heavy vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, blood in urine, a high fever. There’s also the chance of a rare but extremely serious condition called ovarian hyper-simulation syndrome (OHSS). If any of these occur, call your doctor immediately.

Psychological stress is often a big issue. The financial obligations, possible issues that could arise when using a donor, and overall anxiety should not go unchecked. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your partner and your future family.

How Much Does An IVF Procedure Cost?

The financial demands of IVF vary depending on the use of donors. But, in general, insurance does not cover IVF. Some states have laws requiring insurance to cover fertility treatment. However, not all components of the procedure fall under this heading. The price for a single IVF cycle that doesn’t use donors can range from $12,000-$17,000.

That price increases immensely if a donor is used. An egg donor, for example, skyrockets the price as high as $65,000.  This could include legal fees, medical fees, donor compensation, the actual IVF procedure, and separate insurance to make sure everyone’s ass is covered.

At that point, the cost of IVF is on par with that of adoption. It sucks that it costs some folks so much money simply to have something they want to love unconditionally. Just try keeping in mind how cool your kid will think they are when you tell them they spent time chilling in a petri dish. Who else can say that?

ivf embryo

Please Don’t Get Divorced

Most storage facilities require some discussion about what happens to the embryos if death or divorce separate a couple.  If a couple who has not yet implanted the embryos decides to divorce, then embryos tend to remain in cryogenic limbo.

Courts are generally unwilling to force one partner in the relationship to become a parent for the sake of the other (Sofia Vergara had a long trial based on this). No true precedent has been established, though, as some courts show concern when one partner can never biologically parent a child if the embryos are destroyed.

Although sperm donors retain no legal rights to stored embryos, the frozen ones of an IVF-treated couple legally belong to both partners. It gets all sorts of complicated.

The Federal Government & IVF

Currently, IVF is legal in all 50 states. Congressional Republicans, nevertheless, recently reintroduced a federal “personhood” bill. If enacted, this bill classifies fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses as “persons.” This would give them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution (aka the right to life from the point of conception). The bill criminalizes abortion, bans certain types of contraception, deters health care for pregnant women, and outlaws IVF.

The “personhood” bill is not all that new. It’s been introduced under various names such as the Sanctity of Human Life Act and Life At Conception Act. Congress has failed its advancement for the past decade, as have state legislatures. States instead seem concerned with getting insurance companies to cover at least parts of IVF. But, like many issues regarding pregnancy, the future of is indeterminable.