IVF is the most common type of assisted reproductive technology (ART), which essentially helps women with infertility issues become pregnant. In Vitro Fertilization, is a method of getting pregnant where an egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the body, in vitro (which means in glass). The resulting embryos can then be transferred to the woman’s uterus with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.
The process is undertaken by couples struggling to conceive, same-sex couples or single women wishing to have a baby through sperm donation.
IVF helps people with infertility who want to have a baby. IVF is expensive and invasive, so couples often try other fertility treatments first. These may include taking fertility drugs or having intrauterine insemination. During that procedure, a doctor transfers sperm directly into a woman’s uterus.
IVF can be used to treat infertility in the following patients:
Parents may also choose IVF if they run the risk of passing a genetic disorder on to their offspring. A medical lab can test the embryos for genetic abnormalities. Then, a doctor only implants embryos without genetic defects.
Step 1: Meeting an IVF Specialist:
Your first step towards a happier life begins with meeting your IVF specialist. During this appointment, your specialist will review the information you have provided and discuss any previous tests or treatments you have undergone. Once they’ve discussed and addressed any concerns or questions, they will recommend how best to proceed.
Step 2: Day 1 of your Period (The Natural Menstrual Cycle ):
Once you’ve had the initial meeting with your IVF specialist, you will be given medication that will suppress your natural menstrual cycle. This is to ensure that the medication used in the next stage will be more effective.
The medication comes in two variations:
Your specialist will advise on which mediation will be best for you, and you will then continue to use this for around two weeks.
Step 3: Stimulating your ovaries:
The stimulation phase starts from day 1. In a natural monthly cycle, your ovaries normally produce 1 egg. You’ll take medication for 8-14 days to encourage the follicles in your ovaries (where the eggs live) to produce more eggs.
Your specialist prescribes medication specific to your body and treatment plan. It’s usually in the form of injections, which can vary from 1-2 for the cycle, or 1-2 per day. It can be daunting, but your fertility nurse will be there to show you exactly how and where to give the injections. You can get your partner involved too and watch and learn together to get it right. It quickly becomes a habit and you’ll be an expert in no time.
The most common hormones in the medications used to stimulate the follicles are:
Step 4: Egg retrieval:
Egg retrieval, or egg ‘pick up’, is a hospital day procedure where the eggs are collected from your ovaries. An anaesthetist will get you ready for a general anaesthetic. You’ll be asleep and the procedure takes about 20-30 minutes.
It’s delicate work where every millimetre counts, and this is where the experience of our specialists pays off. You can’t see an egg with the naked eye; they’re contained in the fluid within the follicles in your ovaries. The specialist removes fluid from the follicles that look like they’ve grown enough to have an egg inside.
Your fertility specialist should have a fair idea from your ultrasounds how many eggs there are before retrieval. The average number of eggs collected is 8-15.
Step 5: The sperm (Collecting Your Eggs):
If you’re a couple planning on using fresh sperm, the male will produce a sample the morning of the egg retrieval. If you are using frozen or donor sperm, our scientists will have it ready in the lab.
Step 6: Fertilization:
Your fertility specialist gives our scientists the eggs they have retrieved, still in the fluid from the follicles of the ovaries. The scientists use powerful microscopes to find the eggs in the fluid so they can be removed.
It’s important the eggs are fertilised quickly. The eggs and some sperm are placed in a dish. They have the chance to find each other and fertilise like they would naturally within your body.
Step 7: Embryo development:
If the sperm fertilises the egg, it becomes an embryo. Our scientists put the embryo into a special incubator where the conditions for growth and development are perfect.
We create the perfect growing conditions using a mix of amino acids, just like your body would use to nurture the embryo.
Our scientists keep an eye on the embryos over 5-6 days. What we want is:
Step 8: Embryo transfer:
If your embryo develops in the lab, you’re ready for it to be transferred into your uterus.
Your fertility nurses will contact you to explain what you will need to do to prepare.
The embryo transfer is a very simple process, like a pap smear. It takes about 5 minutes, you’ll be awake, there’s no anaesthetic, and you can get up straight away. You can continue with your day, the embryo can’t fall out if you stand up or go to the toilet.
A scientist prepares your embryo by placing it in a small tube called a catheter. It’s critical this is done by an expert to disturb the embryo as little as possible.
Step 9: The final blood test:
Approximately two weeks after your embryo transfer, you’ll have a blood test to measure your levels of the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). hCG in your bloodstream usually means a positive pregnancy test. Your nurse will let you know exactly when you need to have your blood test, as it may vary for some patients.
There are a number of questions to ask regarding the cost and details of specific centers and fertility programs. Some suggested questions are available online in our FAQ Page. (ad ivf faq page hyper link)
Some couples want to explore more traditional or over the counter efforts before exploring infertility procedures. If you are trying to get pregnant and looking for resources to support your efforts, we invite you to check out our Fertility Blogs, and IVF Treatment Cost Calculator