Stages of IVF
This article has been submitted by Sareena Sharma, Embryologist at specialist fertility clinic, IVF London.
Many people are aware of IVF, but may not be are aware of the intricacies behind the process. This article outlines the main stages of an IVF cycle and what is involved at each stage. The consultant may recommend IVF following full discussion of medical history and the results of fertility investigations.
IVF STAGE 1: Ovarian stimulation
Once treatment commences, the first step is to stimulate the ovaries. The patient is taught how to self-inject medication. This causes the ovaries to produce multiple follicles that may, all being well, contain mature eggs. A series of monitoring appointments are organised to check the patient’s progress. The treatment can be adjusted if required.
IVF STAGE 2: Egg retrieval
Once the follicles are big enough, the eggs can be collected. When arriving at this stage a final maturation injection (called the trigger injection) will be given to the patient 37 hours before the procedure. This allows for a final maturation of the eggs. During the collection procedure, the patient is under sedation. They can go home on the same day. The male partner is usually asked to produce a sperm sample on the same day.
IVF STAGE 3: Sperm preparation
Before sperm can be used for fertilisation it must first be prepared. This involves spinning the semen at high speed with specific liquids named gradients which have different densities. These ensure that only the best quality sperm are left behind for use in the IVF process.
IVF STAGE 4: Fertilisation (In Vitro)
Once the eggs have been collected and the sperm has been prepared, it is time to incubate them together. During incubation, the sperm cells swim towards the eggs and fertilise them. In some cases, a specialised process called ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) is used. In ICSI, one selected sperm cell is injected directly into the egg.
The embryos are closely monitored for 3-6 days to ensure that they are developing normally. During this time the patient will receive regular updates from the clinic about the progress of their embryos.
IVF STAGE 5: Embryo Transfer
After incubation, the best quality embryos are chosen for transfer. This involves placing one or two embryos into a catheter and then transferring them into the womb of the woman. Any remaining good quality embryos not transferred during the procedure can be frozen for possible future use using a process called frozen embryo transfer.
IVF STAGE 6: Pregnancy Test
After treatment, the patient is asked to wait for 14-16 days before performing a pregnancy test – often called the ‘two-week wait’. If the test is positive, the doctor will oversee the rest of the patient’s journey. If negative, all the information gained through the IVF cycle will be used to create a plan for next steps.
Here at IVF London, we are committed to making your dream a reality and we achieve this through our philosophy of personalised care. This approach ensures that everyone who comes to us for help not only receives comprehensive advice, evaluation and a world-class treatment program, but that they are supported at every stage by our dedicated team in order to deliver the very best outcome.
Author: Sareena Sharma
Editor: Vicki Anderson