In vitro fertilization is the best option for many couples

If you've tried every natural method to encourage pregnancy with no success, you may feel disappointed and defeated. It's an emotionally challenging situation that can affect women of any age, both hopeful parents-to-be and seasoned mothers. But luckily, it's not the end of the road.

If you haven't been able to conceive naturally, chances are you've experimented with non-invasive fertility aids. When those don't work, it's time to look to in vitro fertilization specialists to help you. Learn what to expect from an IVF procedure and what can affect your chances of success to determine if this is the right treatment for you.

IVF Procedure

IVF treatment involves several steps to both prepare the body and aid in conception. In fact, one important step is taken the cycle before the actual treatment begins: using birth control pills will decrease the chance of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and ovarian cysts during treatment, both of which can lead to pregnancy complications. There may also be other measures to regulate or stimulate certain hormones before moving on to the next step -- using fertility drugs to encourage the ovaries to produce eggs.

Close monitoring is an important and frequent part of IVF treatment. From assessing your IVF hormone levels to your cycle to the growth of the follicles in your ovaries, there are several ways that the doctor will track your progress. After the egg begins to mature, the doctor will trigger the last stage of maturation and then the eggs can be retrieved.

After the egg is retrieved, it is transferred to the lab. Several eggs are often recovered at once -- usually between 8 and 15 -- and now you'll have a little break while the clinic continues with the fertilization procedure. About 10,000 sperm will be placed in each dish with a single egg, and each dish will be incubated for 12 to 24 hours. Once the eggs have been fertilized, a few of the healthiest embryos will be transferred to your uterus, and you'll be well on your way to achieving your goal.

In Vitro Fertilization Statistics and Complications

IVF is a lengthy and complex procedure, but the good news is that it can bring relatively high success rates. Of course, your personal success will depend on several factors, including your age, how many eggs were retrieved and any previous pregnancies. If you're under 35 years old, you have the greatest chance of becoming pregnant -- for women in this age group who have more than 10 eggs retrieved, there's almost a 50% chance a live birth will result from IVF treatment. Success rates do dip drastically as age increases, so those who are in their 40s may have a far lesser chance of becoming pregnant and delivering a healthy baby.

Many of the complications during an IVF treatment can be avoided with healthy lifestyle habits, but some are out of your control. While quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake will be your best moves to better your chances of a healthy pregnancy, the main complication with IVF is the risk of multiple births. Because multiple embryos are transferred to the uterus at once, there's a chance that more than one will continue to grow into a fetus, and multiple fetuses increase the chances of prematurity or pregnancy loss.