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In Vitro Fertilization
What is IVF?
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the process of combining the man’s sperm and the woman’s egg in a culture dish and allowing them to fertilize in a laboratory. There are many steps involved in the IVF process and treatment requires frequent visits to our clinic. For new patients, a typical IVF cycle may take 6-12 weeks from the time you start your prescreening testing to the transfer of the embryo.
IVF might be an option for you if:
- You have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility
- Your fallopian tubes are blocked
- Your male partner has problems with his sperm
- You have been unsuccessful with other treatments like fertility drugs or IUI
The IVF cycle explained
1) Stimulation of Ovaries
The cycle starts when your doctor prescribes medications to stimulate your ovaries to produce several eggs in one cycle. These medications will also control when you ovulate. Some of the medications are given by injection, but one of our nurses will teach you and your partner how to prepare the injections and give them.
Throughout your cycle, you will come into the clinic for several ultrasounds and blood tests to determine how well the medications are working. The ultrasounds provide pictures of the follicles to measure their development in the ovaries. The blood tests will check for estradiol, a hormone that is a form of estrogen. As the follicles mature, we typically see a rise in the estradiol level as well. Both of these tests give us an indication of how well the medications are working. During these visits you’ll mostly see the nurse and the laboratory staff. Your doctor is monitoring your progress “behind-the-scenes” by reviewing your ultrasounds and lab reports following each visit. He will determine if any changes need to be made in your stimulation medication protocol.
3) Egg Retrieval
Once the follicles have matured you will be instructed to give yourself an injection of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). Approximately 36 hours after the shot you will come in to our clinic for the egg retrieval process. During the egg retrieval process a large needle is inserted through the wall of the vagina into the ovary and follicles to aspirate the eggs. Your doctor will discuss with you in advance the medications that are used to keep you comfortable during the procedure.
4) Fertilization in the Lab
One of the most fascinating aspects of the IVF process occurs in the laboratory. This is where the embryologist mixes the eggs and the sperm together. If fertilization occurs, the embryologist will monitor the fertilized eggs over the next 2-5 days. Only the best quality embryos will be selected for transfer. The embryologist will communicate to you the number of fertilized eggs and the progress of their development.
5) Embryo Transfer
Three to five days after the retrieval, an embryo is transferred back into the uterus. Your doctor will discuss with you the number of embryos to transfer. Any high quality unused embryos may be frozen for future pregnancy attempts. Approximately 2 weeks after the transfer you will take a pregnancy test.
For Couples Using Donor Eggs
The IVF process for couples using donor eggs will be somewhat more complex. Egg donation might be considered when the intended parent is unable to provide the eggs herself. Egg donors may be anonymous or known. All donors, known or unknown must be cleared through the same comprehensive screening process.
"As the IVF Nurse Coordinators at Reproductive Medicine Center, we know that dealing with infertility can be emotionally draining and overwhelming for many couples. And for those of you considering in Vitro Fertilization, you probably have many questions and concerns. As the IVF Nurse Coordinators, we're here to help walk you through the initial pre-screening and the complete scheduling process for IVF. We want to assure you that we'll be by your side each step of the way!"