Switched at Conception
'I question everything'
Ripening, retrieving, fertilizing, implanting continued...
About 12 days later, when the developing egg follicles
(structures containing the egg and supportive fluid) reach a diameter of 17
millimeters or more, another drug is given to trigger the final stage of egg
development. But before the follicles have a chance to release them, the doctor
harvests the eggs with a laparoscope (a long tube with a camera and retrieving
device on the end), which reaches the ovary by passing through the vagina,
uterus, and fallopian tube on that side. Monitoring the laparoscope's journey
by ultrasound, the doctor targets the maturing follicles, inserts a fine needle
into them, and withdraws their contents. "We look to get at least four
eggs, but 12 or more would not be bad either," Luciano says.
The harvested material is then delivered to an embryologist,
who isolates the eggs and places them individually into petri dishes. The
partner's sperm is combined with the eggs, and if all goes well, fertilized
Should that happen, the progress of the embryos is monitored
for three to five days. Then the strongest two to four are transferred into the
woman's uterus, where it is hoped they will implant. The rest are frozen for
any future attempts. Hormones are given to inhibit menstruation, and a few
weeks later, a pregnancy test confirms if the process was successful.
After two attempts that failed to produce any harvestable eggs,
Gora's ovaries produced 28 on the third try.
Success rates tell the tale
"You would think that under such controlled conditions, it
would work 100% of the time," Luciano says. But the rate of success is
somewhere between 25% and 35%. In young women like Gora, the rate may be as
high as 50%; in women over 40, it can be as low as 15%. "If a woman does
not get pregnant by the third try, there is no reason to believe further
attempts will be successful," says Luciano.
Indeed, Gora did not become pregnant, and decided to stop
trying. "The doctors told me the success rates, but it didn't sink in,"