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In vitro fertilization, also called IVF, is a complex series of procedures that can lead to a pregnancy. It's a treatment for infertility, a condition in which you can't get pregnant after at least a year of trying for most couples. IVF also can be used to prevent passing on genetic problems to a child.

During in vitro fertilization, mature eggs are collected from ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. Then a procedure is done to place one or more of the fertilized eggs, called embryos, in a uterus, which is where babies develop. One full cycle of IVF takes about 2 to 3 weeks. Sometimes these steps are split into different parts and the process can take longer.

In vitro fertilization is the most effective type of fertility treatment that involves the handling of eggs or embryos and sperm. Together, this group of treatments is called assisted reproductive technology.

IVF can be done using a couple's own eggs and sperm. Or it may involve eggs, sperm or embryos from a known or unknown donor. In some cases, a gestational carrier — someone who has an embryo implanted in the uterus — might be used.

Your chances of having a healthy baby using IVF depend on many factors, such as your age and the cause of infertility. What's more, IVF involves getting procedures that can be time-consuming, expensive and invasive. If more than one embryo is placed in the uterus, it can result in a pregnancy with more than one baby. This is called a multiple pregnancy.

Your health care team can help you understand how IVF works, what the risks are and whether it's right for you.

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