What Is The IVF Journey?
Published on 01/25/23
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a series of medical steps that help you conceive a child. Just under 50 million couples in the US and 190 million worldwide experience infertility. Treatment involves taking drugs that stimulate your body to produce eggs. Eggs and sperm can come from a couple looking to have a baby or a pre-screened donor. IVF is one of the world’s most successful ways of assisted conception. This article will examine the IVF journey and what to expect from the process.
Your fertility doctor may recommend you for IVF if you:
- Have blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- Have decreased sperm motility (sperm swimming speed and movement) or low sperm count
- Have or are a carrier of certain genetic disorders
- Are a same-sex or intended single parent
- Have unexplained fertility issues
If you decide to proceed with IVF, you will begin an IVF treatment cycle. Your fertility doctor will tell you what to expect from the process.
At the start of your IVF testing, couples will have a series of blood tests, ultrasounds, and samples to help tailor the IVF. Women may have hormone tests, ultrasounds or X-rays to ensure there are no blockages or issues that would prevent IVF success. A physician will also check the number of eggs in their body to help estimate how their ovaries will respond to IVF treatment. Men may have semen samples to test sperm quality, motility and volume.
Couples or donors going through IVF will also have screenings for conditions like HIV or thalassemia. If you have an egg donor, you should ensure that all eggs are screened before insemination. Other tests may be required depending on your location and the clinic.
Fertility medications help to stimulate egg production and increase the chances of IVF being effective. Women take these medications orally or via an injection they give themselves after training. Women may also take hormones that help to suppress their natural menstrual cycle, making fertility medications more effective. Some women are exempt from taking certain hormones due to preexisting medical conditions.
Monitoring & Egg Maturing
A consultant will use a vaginal ultrasound test to assess how the medication has helped the eggs mature. Before eggs are retrieved, women will have a hormone injection that helps their eggs develop even further. Once the consultant has decided that the eggs have matured sufficiently, they will move on to the next stage of IVF, which involves egg retrieval.
Egg Retrieval & Fertilization
Egg retrieval is when the eggs are collected for IVF while the woman is under a general anesthetic. The eggs will be collected using a needle inserted through the vagina and into the ovary. The eggs are placed into a test tube and passed to a doctor who mixes eggs with the donor or partner’s sperm.
Embryo Testing & Transfer
An embryologist can assess how many embryos have formed and screen them for genetic conditions. Embryos will be frozen and stored or transferred to the uterus. The consultant will assess each embryo and decide on the appropriate number of eggs to transfer depending on the woman’s age and the embryo’s condition.
The transfer occurs while the individual is awake via a thin catheter inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. The physician uses an ultrasound to help place the embryos at the top of the cervix.
Approximately two weeks after the embryo transfer, a pregnancy test will determine whether the IVF has been successful. These two weeks can be difficult, so it is recommended to make plans for after the transfer and live life as normally as possible. Your clinic may ask you to come in for a pregnancy test or ask you to take one at home.
If your IVF round is successful, the clinic may send you back to your normal consultant after around six weeks. If the IVF is not successful, you may be able to try again, but it is advised to take some time after treatment.
How Long Does IVF Take?
IVF can take between two-six weeks. For women unable or not required to take certain medications or hormones, the process takes between two to four weeks, while women needing drugs before treatment may see IVF taking from four to six weeks.
The IVF journey has several steps designed to increase the chances of success. Initial tests and drugs help the eggs mature as much as possible and ensure IVF is a viable treatment path. Embryos are carefully assessed and graded before implantation to improve the embryo’s chances of becoming a viable pregnancy.
While IVF has no guarantees, it is one of the fertility treatments with the highest success rates. Preparing yourself for the IVF journey can help you manage the different stages of the cycle and understand what to expect from each step of the process.