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Growing Your Family Through IVF

Written By: Jennifer L. Eaton, MD, MSCI, Director of the Women & Infants Fertility Center on July 14, 2021

At Women & Infants Fertility Center, we are here to help you build your family. There are many reasons that a couple or individual may seek fertility treatment. For heterosexual couples, infertility is defined as failure to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse. We also provide care for single individuals and same-sex couples who require the use of donated eggs, sperm, or a surrogate. We consider it an honor to help all individuals and couples build their families, and we are here to help you!

We are proud to have the only laboratory in Rhode Island that can perform in vitro fertilization, or IVF.  

This state-of-the-art technology involves the fertilization of eggs outside the body and has the highest success rates of any fertility treatment options.  Not all patients require IVF; some may conceive with the use of fertility medications or intrauterine insemination (IUI), in which sperm are placed in the uterus. For patients who require IVF, the process is more involved. First, an ultrasound is performed to visualize the ovaries and measure the number of antral follicles. These are tiny fluid sacs, each of which contains an immature egg. For the next one to two weeks, daily injectable medications are given to grow the follicles and cause the eggs to become mature. The eggs are then removed from the body with a small needle that is placed vaginally with ultrasound guidance.

This procedure, called egg retrieval, is done under anesthesia and is not painful.  The number of eggs obtained during each egg retrieval depends on many factors, including the patient’s age and an underlying supply of eggs. The eggs are then fertilized, either by placing them with sperm or directly injecting one sperm into each egg under a microscope. Once the eggs are fertilized, they start dividing and are called embryos. The embryos are grown in the lab over the course of three to five days, at which point one or more of them are placed into the uterus with a small catheter. Any extra embryos can be frozen and saved for future attempts at pregnancy. They can be stored for many years and then thawed when needed.

Success rates of IVF depend primarily on the age of the patient at the time that the eggs are retrieved. Although other factors also influence the chance of success, pregnancy rates decline with age due to reduced egg quantity and quality. Below age 35, the chance of pregnancy from just one round of IVF is approximately 50%. At age 40, the pregnancy rate is closer to 30% per attempt.   Other factors that can influence IVF success include body mass index (BMI), tobacco use, and marijuana. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a well-balanced diet and regular exercise can help maximize the chances of success from IVF. Caffeine and even alcohol are acceptable in moderation, although your doctor may recommend minimizing these once you begin taking your IVF medications.

The process of IVF can be incredibly stressful. Although stress does not directly impact IVF success rates, it can take a toll on a patient’s overall well-being. I strongly recommend that all individuals or couples starting IVF consider speaking with a therapist. Most IVF clinics have social workers or psychologists who are experts in the field of fertility-related stress. I encourage my patients to take advantage of these resources early in the process.

Ultimately, IVF is an incredible tool that has enabled many people to build their families. With that said, fertility treatment is a very personal choice. We at Women & Infants Fertility Center consider it our honor and privilege to help you navigate your options as they pertain to your family-building goals. Contact us to schedule an appointment. We look forward to seeing you. 


photo-wifc-eaton_high_res-scaled-e1603469296720-250x250Authored by: Jennifer L. Eaton, MD, MSCI
Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Director of the Women & Infants Fertility Center


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