What to Expect During IVF


IVF is one of the most effective forms of assisted reproduction therapies and works for a wide variety of conditions causing infertility. However, IVF is an invasive therapy that takes several weeks to complete. If you are suffering from infertility and are contemplating undergoing IVF, being informed about the procedure can help your chances of success.
Although the process can vary slightly depending upon the individual patient, below is a summary of what most women can expect when undergoing IVF. 


Step One: Suppression of the Pituitary and Ovaries 

The first phase of IVF occurs about a month before eggs are collected and involves suppressing the woman’s natural hormonal cycle. Once the hormones of the pituitary and ovaries are suppressed, the ovaries are more sensitive and able to produce as many eggs as possible in a single cycle with gonadotropins, medications which stimulate egg production. The more eggs are produced, the greater the chances of conceiving and of having additional embryos for future cycles. 

Step Two: Stimulating the Ovaries to Produce Eggs. 


After your pituitary and ovaries have been suppressed, doctors will give you fertility medications that will cause your ovaries to produce the maximum number of eggs. You will have to inject these drugs every day for up to 11 days. Doctors will monitor your ovaries by ultrasound to determine when your egg follicles have reached the ideal size. Then, you will receive a shot that will cause your eggs to mature before they are retrieved. About 36 hours later, your eggs will be retrieved. 

Step Three: Egg Retrieval 


To retrieve the eggs, doctors will place you under anesthesia and insert a thin needle in the vagina to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries. Although recovery from the procedure generally takes no longer than an hour, you will need someone to drive you home due to effects of the anesthesia. 

Step Four: Fertilization 


Once the eggs have been retrieved, they will be fertilized by sperm collected from your partner either by natural methods or by ICSI, a procedure for men with very low-quality sperm. The doctor will use a microscope to inject the healthiest looking sperm into the egg, which is then considered to be a zygote. Once the eggs are fertilized, they will be monitored for up to six days. Some of the eggs will divide into embryos and then further into blastocysts, which will be transferred into the uterus. The number of blastocysts available for transfer will vary. 

Step Five: Embryo Transfer 


With an ultrasound, doctors will transfer one or two blastocysts to the uterus. No anesthesia is needed for this step, which is usually very quick and painless. Doctors may have you take a drug for relaxation. After the transfer, you will take progesterone supplements for up to twelve days. Then doctors will collect blood from you to test for pregnancy.

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