Dr. Steptoe and Dr. Edwards went a step further and developed fertilization in vitro. In this manner, the first “tube baby”, Louise Brown, was achieved in 1978 with a follicle that was taken for the natural cycle, fertilized and then re-inserted.
At that time, this method was thought to be for women with obstructed oviducts. Nowadays, IVF is considered a standard treatment.
In a classic IVF, the ovaries are stimulated with drugs in order to provoke a “superovulation”. The oocytes are taken during a brief intervention and are fertilized in the laboratory by the sperm of the partner or donor. After three or five days, the resulting embryos are implanted in the uterus; the remaining embryos can be vitrified. This method is the basis for several treatments, including pre-implantation diagnosis and the preservation of fertility.
Follicles are aspired. Not every one of them contains an oocyte, and not every oocyte is mature. Thus, the exact number of oocytes can be determined only after an ovum pick up (OPU).
The sperm of the partner is directly injected in the oocyte in the laboratory. The oocyte is 80 times bigger than the sperm. After 12–14 hours, the embryologist can see whether fertilization has been achieved.