IVF vs Test Tube Baby

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As years go by, conceiving a child naturally has become more and more difficult The various lifestyle changes and health conditions restrict couples from having a child of their own.

This is where IVF or test tube baby comes in. So, what are IVF and a test tube baby? Are they the same? What are the procedure and success rates for these treatments? Read this article to learn more about IVF and test tube babies.

What is a test tube baby?

A test tube baby is a non-medical term commonly used to describe babies born through IVF. Before the medical jargon In Vitro Fertilisation was used, many people used the term ‘test tube baby’ was used for several decades to describe IVF babies.

The two terms can confuse some people, who might believe both refer to different processes. But both are one and the same. IVF is the process that results in a test tube baby.

Though the name ‘test tube baby’ may suggest that the babies are produced in a test tube, they are actually fertilised in a petri dish and are transferred back into the uterus for further development.

When the artificial reproduction process was introduced, the baby born from it was called a test tube baby. It was much easier for common people to use and understand the process since these babies were produced in a test tube.

The first ever test tube baby, Louise Joy Brown, was born in England on July 25, 1978. This is the start of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), which has given hope to several million families worldwide.

What is In Vitro Fertilization?

After the first test tube baby was born, several developments were made to the process, which led to the introduction of IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation). IVF is the most effective of all the Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART).

The term IVF came into use in the last decade. It is the modern version of the test tube procedure. In today’s situation, where several million couples or individuals suffer from fertility problems, IVF has come as a welcome solution to their problems.

IVF can be a solution for couples or individuals with fertility problems like poor sperm count or motility, trouble ovulating, poor egg quality, and many more. It has revolutionised the way people consider fertility treatments.

Test Tube Baby or IVF Procedure

IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)

Since both IVF and test tube babies are the same, the procedure to do them is also the same. Below is an overview of the IVF procedure. 

Ovarian stimulation

During the menstrual cycle, the ovaries naturally produce only one to two mature eggs at a time. Female partners are given a series of hormonal injections before the IVF procedure to stimulate the ovaries and mature all the eggs produced simultaneously. 

Egg and sperm retrieval

Once the eggs are mature enough, a thin needle is inserted through the vagina into the ovaries to collect them. The patients will be administered a mild anaesthetic, so there need not be any fear of pain.

For men, the sperm is collected in a container provided by the lab on the same day as egg retrieval. The sperm is sent for a semen analysis test to check for sperm count, motility, and quality.

Fertilisation and embryo culture

The eggs can be fertilised in two ways: the traditional IVF method and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection).

  • In the traditional method, thousands of sperm are placed in a petri dish, and the eggs are placed among them to be fertilised.
  • In ICSI, a single, quality sperm is selected and injected into the egg’s cytoplasm. This method is usually done when the sperm cannot fertilise the eggs on its own.

The fertilised eggs are then monitored for five to six days and analysed for further development. On average, about 50-60% of the eggs fertilised enter the blastocyst stage.

Embryo transfer

This is the last and most important step of the IVF procedure. Once the embryos develop to the blastocyst stage, the best one among them is selected to be transferred back into the uterus for further growth.

There are two types

of embryo transfers that patients can choose from.

  • Fresh embryo transfer. The embryos are transferred into the uterus within five days of egg retrieval.
  • Frozen embryo trasfer. The embryos are frozen and stored for later use.

Patients can choose which type of embryo transfer they want. But most fertility centres prefer frozen embryo transfers because they have a 15-20% high success rate than fresh embryo transfers.

Test tube baby success rate

There is no definite success rate for babies born through IVF procedures. The success of the treatments depends upon the quality of the egg and sperm. But the success rates of the treatment have started to increase in recent years due to technological advancements.

Who needs a Test Tube baby or IVF treatment?

Follicular Monitoring

Any couple or individual with problems conceiving a child through a natural process or fertility issues can go for IVF treatments.

Medically, a couple (under the age of 35) is considered infertile if they are unable to conceive a child normally within a year of regular, unprotected intercourse. Couples over 35 are considered infertile if they cannot conceive naturally after six months of regular, unprotected intercourse.

Female partners with damaged or blocked fallopian tubes or men with insufficient sperm count, motility, or shape abnormalities can opt for IVF treatments.

IVF can also help when female partners have endometriosis, a condition where the tissue lining inside the uterus grows outside of it. In cases of male infertility, couples can opt for ICSI treatment (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), where a single, healthy sperm is selected and injected into the cytoplasm of the egg (oocyte).

Are the test tube baby and IVF procedure different?

No, Test Tube Baby and IVF are not different. Test Tube Baby is a non-medical alternative to IVF treatments. Before the term IVF was found, people used the term ‘test tube baby’ to describe babies born through assisted technologies.

Are test tube babies genetically identical?

The test tube babies are fertilised artificially in a laboratory by mixing healthy sperm with the eggs. Since the process is based on gametes, the babies can be genetically identical. However, couples can also choose to use another fetus for reproduction with legal formalities. 

Are test tube babies weak?

There is no evidence to prove that test tube babies are relatively weaker than normal babies. This process has been going on for over 4 decades, and most of them have given consistently good results. As of today, more than half a million babies have been born from IVF or ICSI treatments annually.

Complications associated with IVF

Though the IVF procedure is safe compared to other assisted reproductive techniques, there are some complications that the female partner or the baby might experience if not done carefully. Some of the complications associated with IVF treatments are

  • Possibilities of miscarriage,
  • Premature delivery,
  • Multiple births,
  • Ectopic pregnancy (where the egg implants outside the uterus),
  • OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome),
  • Bleeding,
  • Chromosomal or congenital disabilities, and
  • Placenta abruption

Conclusion

IVF or test tube babies have come as a welcome surprise for millions of couples who have difficulty bearing a child naturally. They fulfil the couples’ dreams of entering parenthood and having a child.

If you have been suffering from fertility problems and wish to have a child, you can always opt for IVF treatments with a fertility doctor. Though the whole process is tedious and complex, it will all be worth it when you have a child in your arms.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, babies born through normal and IVF procedures are different. Normal babies are born as a result of intercourse between a couple. IVF babies are fertilised in a laboratory and transferred into the uterus for further development. 

Though they are born through different methods, both babies are born perfectly healthy. 

The success rates of IVF differ for each case. It depends upon the quality and health of the egg and sperm used for fertilisation. However, IVF success rates have been increasing in recent years due to technological advancements.

Yes, like babies born through a natural process, IVF babies are also healthy unless there is any deformity or error during the process. 

Some of the complications associated with IVF treatments are

  • Possibilities of miscarriage,
  • Premature delivery,
  • Multiple births,
  • Ectopic pregnancy (where the egg implants outside the uterus),
  • OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome),
  • Bleeding,
  • Chromosomal or congenital disabilities, and
  • Placenta abruption.
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Dr. Rukkayal Fathima
Dr. Rukkayal Fathima

Dr Rukkayal Fathima, India's Leading Gynaecologist and the best fertility doctor in Chennai. She has 11+ years of experience and treated 1000+ patients. She finished her M. S., Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the Institute of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (Madras Medical College), Chennai. She is a visiting consultant at St. Isabelle Hospital, Motherhood Hospital, Rainbow Hospital & Mehta Hospital. Dr Rukkayal Fathima specialises in Obstetrics care, Early Pregnancy Scan, IVF, ICSI, TESA/Micro TESE, Menopause advice, Gynaecological surgeries and endoscopy. She is a Co-Founder of Hive Fertility, the Best Fertility Center in Chennai.

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