Family is everything, but for many, the natural pathway to children is not possible.
In vitro fertilization, commonly referred to as IVF is a common, proven method of helping couples and individuals build the families they’ve always wanted. IVF is recommended to those that have struggled to become pregnant naturally or through less invasive fertility treatments or for patients with high-risk factors.
IVF is a complicated, multi-step process that requires a significant investment. However, it is a time-tested method that yields higher success rates than other treatment options making it a popular choice here in the US.
In this article, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of IVF and how it works. If you’d like to discuss IVF further, please consult a trusted medical professional.
What is IVF?
In vitro fertilization is a procedure that helps women overcome a variety of fertility issues. The IVF process brings together the egg and sperm outside of the body in a highly specialized laboratory.
When the egg becomes fertilized, it is referred to as an embryo. The embryo is nurtured in a secured environment for several days before it is transferred into the patient’s uterus.
IVF in numbers
IVF is prevalent among families in the US. Here are some statistics and key numbers that paint a picture of this life-giving treatment.
- One million babies born between 1987 and 2015 in the United States were conceived via IVF.
- If she is using her own eggs, the age of the woman is the most critical success factor in IVF. Women over the age of 35 have a decreased likelihood of becoming pregnant. Success rates, although different from lab to lab as a percentage of live births per egg retrieval, nationally they are as follows:
- – Women younger than 35: 54 percent
- – Women aged 35 – 37: 42 percent
- – Women aged 38 – 40: 26.6 percent
- – Women aged 41 – 42: 13 percent
- – Women aged 43 and older: 3.9 percent
- The typical cost of a single IVF cycle in the US is $10,000 to $15,000.
The IVF treatment process, step-by-step
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the IVF process. From start to finish, a single cycle of IVF takes about six weeks.
Step 1: Initial meeting with your fertility specialist
The first step is to schedule a consultation with your fertility specialist who will review your fertility treatment history and medical conditions, if any. Your specialist will then evaluate whether or not you are a suitable candidate for the treatment and offer their initial thoughts and advice.
If you are a couple, we recommend you both attend this appointment.
Step 2: Pre-treatment appointment
Before you begin your IVF treatment, you’ll meet with your fertility specialist again. They will explain your treatment plan and address any concerns you may have and review the risks associated with the process. You will also be required to sign applicable consent forms.
Step 3: IVF treatment begins
You are now on the path toward pregnancy. At this stage, your specialist will have ordered the required medications and now will walk you through how to take them. You will also be taught how to self-administer your fertility medication injections. Depending on the protocol, you will likely be taking FSH or LH hormones.
If you are a couple, we also recommend you both attend this appointment.
Step 4: Hormone stimulation begins
You will begin to self-administer the FSH, with or without LH using a diabetic-style pen injector. This hormone stimulates your ovaries causing it to produce more eggs than normal. The goal is to retrieve as many mature eggs as possible during the egg collection surgery as this increases your likelihood of becoming pregnant.
Step 5: Ongoing monitoring
During your IVF cycle, your fertility specialist will keep an eye on your hormone levels via regular blood tests. You will also undergo several ultrasounds to help your specialist determine the number and size of your ovarian follicles. These are the egg producing cells in your ovary that tests will determine when your egg collection surgery takes place.
Step 6: Trigger injection administered
Once your fertility specialist confirms that you have the optimal number and size of follicles and proper hormone levels, your egg collection will be scheduled.
36 to 38 hours before your procedure, you will administer a trigger injection containing hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). This initiates ovulation.
Step 7: Egg collection occurs
Egg collection is an outpatient procedure usually accomplished with twilight sedation. The surgery takes 15-30 minutes to complete and you will need to arrange someone to drive you home afterward.
On the same day as your procedure, your partner will need to provide a fresh semen sample, unless you’re using a donor sample.
Step 8: Egg fertilization begins
The eggs collected during the surgical removal in the procedure room are moved using sterile techniques to the IVF laboratory via a pass through window.
The contents are placed into a petri dish and with a specialized culture prepared for the upcoming sperm the contents are put into the incubator to allow for the subsequent process of fertilization. The incubator mimics the internal temperate of the human body.
Step 9: The embryo develops
The following day, embryologists will assess the number that fertilized and your doctor will contact you to let you know how many embryos you have.
Step 10: The embryo is transferred
Embryo transfer typically occurs five days after your egg collection procedure, but sometimes earlier. Like egg collection, embryo transfer is a same-day procedure, but does not require any sedation. The process involves a fine catheter inserted through the cervix, delivering the developed embryo to the woman’s uterus under ultrasound guidance.
Any embryos that developed but are not transferred may be suitable for freezing. Frozen embryos can be transferred at a later date.
Step 11: Pregnancy test
Around two weeks after your embryo transfer procedure, you will have a blood test to determine whether or not you are pregnant. This will occur even if you have a period.
You will usually find out if you are pregnant on the same day your blood is taken. If the IVF cycle has been successful, your specialist will schedule an ultrasound appointment in about two weeks’ time.
Is IVF right for me?
No two families are alike. That’s why we always suggest consulting with a fertility expert before making any decisions.
If you’re ready to explore your options and start your journey toward parenthood, get in touch with our friendly team today. We are here to help.