In vitro fertilisation procedure

So what does IVF involve?

IVF is based upon treatment cycles and each cycle takes about 5 to 6 weeks to complete.

You and your partner will undergo a series of tests at a fertility clinic which also includes a thorough explanation of the treatment process.

Each cycle is comprised of a series of stages which are as follows:

Stage 1:

  • The woman will be prescribed fertility medication which is designed to stimulate egg production in the ovaries. Fertility drugs have helped with increased success rates as they boost ovulation. This stage consists of two parts:

    a. The suppression of her menstrual cycle.

    b. The stimulation of her ovaries.

    The simulation stage is extremely tiring for the woman. She will have to undergo daily blood tests and ultrasound scans to monitor egg development. Eggs are produced via the ovarian follicles and this hormone treatment will produce more follicles which mean more eggs. She will also be monitored for ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS).

Stage 2:

  • Once the eggs have fully developed she will be given a human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) injection. This causes the eggs to mature and be ready for extraction. This injection will also loosen the eggs from the follicles which mean they will be easier to extract.
  • Once the eggs are ready, she will be given a general anaesthetic whilst the eggs are extracted from the ovaries via a fine needle. This transvaginal procedure will take around 20 minutes.
  • Sperm is obtained either from your partner or via a donor.
  • This is the crucial part of the process. The eggs are combined with sperm in laboratory conditions (a Petri dish NOT a test tube) in order to fertilise. If there is any problem with this, for example the sperm are unable to fertilise the egg then an intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) will be used instead.

    This process involves injecting a single sperm into the egg to fertilise it.

  • The fertilised eggs are left to incubate under special conditions in the laboratory. These eggs will form a body of cells called an embryo which will be implanted into the woman’s uterus. Any embryos not used will be frozen and used in future IVF cycles.
  • Whilst this is taking place the woman will be given hormones, for example progesterone, to help prepare her body for pregnancy. This hormone causes the walls of the uterus to thicken which increases the chance of a successful embryo implantation.
  • Embryos are usually ready for implantation 5 days later.

Stage 3:

  • Two to 3 embryos are transferred to the uterus. The reason for this being that there is a greater chance of pregnancy than if a single embryo is implanted. Having said that there is also the risk of having twins or triplets!

    The embryos are implanted into the uterus using a transvaginal procedure.

Stage 4:

  • There is a waiting period of 2 to 3 weeks after which blood tests and an ultrasound scan will be performed to check for signs of pregnancy.

    If she does not have a period 14 days following embryo implantation then a urine based pregnancy test will be carried out. This will be followed by a blood test a couple of days later.

    Pregnancy will be confirmed at this time (if successful).

In vitro fertilisation Treatment Guide Index:

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