Today, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is practically a household word. But not so long ago, it was a mysterious procedure for infertility that produced what were then known as "test-tube babies." Louise Brown, born in England in 1978, was the first such baby to be conceived outside her mother's womb.
Unlike the simpler process of artificial insemination -- in which sperm is placed in the uterus and conception happens otherwise normally -- IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus. IVF is a complex and expensive procedure; only about 5% of couples with infertility seek it out. However, since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.
Fertility drugs remain the primary treatment for women with ovulation disorders; some are taken orally and some are injected. In general, these medications work by causing the release of hormones that either trigger or regulate ovulation.
Even if you're using assisted reproductive techniques such as in vitro fertilization, fertility drugs are still an important part of treatment. Since the number and names of all of the infertility medications may seem dizzying, here are the basic facts on the...