In vitro fertilisation (IVF)
IVF is a type of fertility treatment where fertilisation takes place outside the body. It’s suitable for people with a wide range of fertility issues and is one of the most commonly used and successful treatments available for many people. This page introduces you to how IVF works, the risks and success rates.
What is IVF?
IVF is a common treatment for people who are unable to conceive naturally
Usually in IVF, the woman has medicines (fertility hormones) to stimulate the ovaries to produce several eggs. The eggs are then collected and mixed with sperm in a laboratory.
IVF is carried out when the sperm quality is considered to be ‘normal’ If there are issues with the sperm quality such as low motility or numbers, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may instead be used – this is where a single sperm is injected into the egg by an embryologist
If fertilisation is successful, the embryos are allowed to develop for between two and six days. This helps the embryologist to select the strongest embryo, which is then transferred back to the woman’s womb to hopefully continue to a successful birth.
Often several good quality embryos will be created. In these cases, it's normally best practice to freeze the remaining embryos because putting two embryos back in the womb increases your chance of having twins or triplets, which carries health risks. You can use your frozen embryos later on if your first cycle is unsuccessful or you want to try for another baby.
Download our Fertility treatment 2017: trends and figures report for the latest data on success rates.
When we had our first cycle of IVF we just assumed it would work. You read all those 'miracle baby' stories in the media but you rarely hear about the people who weren't successful.
Review date: 28 January 2022