This article simplifies the entire IVF procedure into easy-to-understand steps, from fertility testing to the final embryo transfer. Our guide is designed to make the process clearer and more accessible for you.
To get an understanding of your fertility and anatomy and to create a tailored treatment plan, your provider will require you to perform some pre-treatment investigations.
The pre-treatment investigations include hormonal tests like AMH, FSH, and estradiol to gauge ovarian reserve; virology screenings to ensure the safety of stored eggs/embryos; and ultrasound scans, including antral follicle count and uterine evaluation, to provide a detailed overview of reproductive health.
Birth control: 2-3 weeks
Birth control is often recommended by clinics to help your follicles grow at the same rate to assist with egg collection. It also helps with scheduling your travel to the clinic for the procedure.
Ovarian stimulation: Approximately 10-12 days
You will administer daily injectable medications of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). The goal is to stimulate the growth and development of multiple follicles (i.e., eggs) to freeze. During this time, you will go to your clinic for monitoring, which includes blood tests and ultrasounds. Your doctor may adjust your medication dosage to ensure that follicles grow appropriately during this time.
The trigger injection
At the end of the stimulation period, you will be instructed to take a trigger injection. While this can sound a little intimidating, it’s just another type of injection that helps the eggs mature and prepare the body for egg retrieval.
Two days following the trigger injection, you will go to the clinic for your egg retrieval procedure. This intra-vaginal procedure takes place while you are under IV sedation, so you are asleep, and the procedure is completely pain-free. You may feel some minor cramps after the procedure, which can typically be treated with over-the-counter pain relief.
If not already provided, sperm is collected from your partner or a donor on the same day of egg retrieval. The sperm sample will be washed and prepared to separate the most active sperm.
Fertilization and embryo culture: 3-5 days
The collected eggs and sperm are combined in a laboratory to encourage fertilization. If necessary, a single sperm may be directly injected into an egg in a process called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). Fertilized eggs (now embryos) are cultured in the lab for a few days before transfer.
Embryo transfer: About 10-15 minutes
One or more healthy embryos (based on the clinic’s protocols) are selected and transferred into your uterus using a thin catheter. This is a non-surgical procedure and does not require anesthesia. Following this, any remaining viable embryos can be frozen for future use.
The two-week wait: Approximately 10-14 days
After the embryo transfer, there's a waiting period before you can take a pregnancy test, often called the “two-week wait.” During this time, the embryo is hopefully implanting itself into the lining of your uterus. You may be advised to take it easy during this period, but you can usually return to your normal routine. It's completely natural to experience a range of emotions during this waiting period, and you should seek support if you're feeling particularly anxious or stressed.
Pregnancy testing: Usually 10-14 days post embryo transfer
After the two-week wait, a blood test can be taken to measure the levels of the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in your body. Higher levels of hCG usually indicate a positive pregnancy. It's important to wait the full two weeks before testing to ensure the most accurate results, as testing too early can lead to false negatives or positives.
Remember, while IVF increases your chances of becoming pregnant, it's not guaranteed, and it's common for it to take multiple cycles for a successful pregnancy to occur. During this process, it's important to have a strong support network and open communication with your healthcare team.