June 27, 2019
IVF Process: A Step-by-Step Guide
Beginning your IVF journey can be a daunting process and at Wessex Fertility we understand that. However, you are not alone. Our dedicated team of fertility specialists are here to help answer any questions you may have about the IVF process, start to finish, and ensure that you understand every aspect of your treatment. So, how long does the IVF process take? Let’s take a look at the IVF process in detail.
Tests and Screenings Prior to the IVF Process
Before you begin the IVF process, both you and your partner will need various screenings, including:
- Ovarian Reserve Testing: to determine the quality and quantity of your eggs, the fertility specialist might test your hormone levels with a blood test. This blood test, alongside an ultrasound of your ovaries, can predict how your ovaries will respond to fertility medication.
- Semen Analysis: if a semen analysis is not done as part of your initial fertility evaluation, we will conduct a detailed semen analysis shortly before the start of your IVF treatment cycle.
- Infectious disease screening: we will screen both you and your partner for infectious diseases, including HIV.
Whether you’re going through the IVF process through the NHS or privately, thorough tests are required.
Step One: The First Day of Your Period
The IVF process timeline starts on day one. The first step on your IVF journey will involve meeting with an IVF specialist. During this appointment, one of our fertility experts will review that information you have provided, regarding any previous medical tests or treatments you have undergone, and address any concerns or questions you may have.
Your meeting with an IVF specialist is important as this will give you the opportunity to discuss your concerns, ask any questions, and understand your treatment plan fully. During this meeting your specialist may also carry out tests that assess your uterus and ovarian function. However, there is no need to worry as these are routine procedures, the results of which will determine the best treatment for you.
Step Two: Meeting with an IVF Specialist
The IVF treatment process officially starts on day 1 of your period. Everyone’s body is different. So, your fertility nurse will help you learn how to identify day 1 of your menstrual cycle successfully.
Step Three: Suppressing Your Natural Cycle
After your initial meeting with one of our IVF specialists, you will be given medication to suppress your natural menstrual cycle during the IVF process. The medication used to suppress your menstrual cycle can be administered one of two ways:
- A daily injection (we can teach you or your partner how to administer this)
- A nasal spray
Your specialist will advise you on the best medication for you. The medication must be administered for up to two weeks. The reason we need to suppress your natural cycle is to ensure that the medication used in the next step of the IVF treatment process will be as effective as possible.
Step Four: The Follicle Stimulating Hormone
Once your natural menstrual cycle has been successfully supressed, we will prescribe you a fertility hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). As with the process above, this is a process you can continue for 10-12 days.
Follicle stimulating hormones are an essential part of the IVF process as they help increase the number of eggs your ovaries produce. This means that you have more eggs that are able to be fertilised when the time comes. Having more eggs available is beneficial as it increases your chances of having a choice of embryos to use in your treatment. The more embryos you have to choose from, the higher your chance of a successful conception.
Some people choose to freeze their embryos so that they can have a family at a time most suitable to them. The IVF process with frozen transfer often has success rates that are just as high as embryos that have not been frozen. If you have any questions regarding the IVF process and frozen embryo transfer, contact us today. We would be more than happy to any your questions and explain the IVF process timeline in more detail.
Step Five: We Evaluate Your Progress
Throughout the IVF process UK, we will evaluate your progress and a formal evaluation will take place at the end of the treatment. To monitor your progress successfully, we will carry out vaginal ultrasound scans (to monitor your ovaries) and blood tests, if required.
You will be given one final hormone injection 34-38 hours before your eggs are collected. This will help your eggs mature as much as possible before they are collected.
Step Six: The Egg Collection Process
When the time comes for egg collection to take place, sedation is required. Your eggs will be collected using a needle that will be passed through the vagina and into each of the ovaries. This will be done carefully under the guidance of our ultrasound technology.
While this treatment may sound scary and uncomfortable, it is a minor procedure that only lasts around 15-20 minutes. Many people ask, is the IVF process painful? Is the egg collection process difficult? At Wessex Fertility we do everything we can to ensure you are comfortable.
Our fertility specialists will be with you throughout the procedure, ensuring you are comfortable and supporting you in any way they can. Recovery takes about 30 minutes and you’ll be able to walk out on your own. However, despite this we recommend it’s a good idea to have a support person with you as you won’t be able to drive after the procedure.
Step Seven: Egg Fertilisation
Once your eggs have been successfully collected, they will be mixed with the sperm in our laboratory. Your eggs will be held in a special media and cultured in an incubator until they are growing nicely and ready for insemination.
Unfortunately, not all eggs will fertilise successfully and reach the embryo stage. There are many reasons for this, but often the eggs are not mature enough or the sperm is not strong enough. We know that you’ll be waiting on news, so we will constantly keep you up to date with any developments.
During this time, hormone medicines will also be supplied in preparation for lining the womb to help successfully receive the embryo.
Step Eight: Embryo Transfer
After a couple of days, during which the embryos development is closely monitored, the embryos are transferred into the woman’s womb using a catheter. The catheter is inserted into the vagina and is only a little uncomfortable (many women describe it as being like a cervical screening). Therefore, in most cases, sedation is not required.
After the procedure you can resume your normal activities. However, try to avoid strenuous activity which could cause discomfort. Some typical side effects after the embryo transfer include the following:
- Passing a small amount of clear or bloody fluid shortly after the procedure. This is due to the swabbing of the cervix before the embryo transfer.
- Breast tenderness due to the high oestrogen levels.
- Mild bloating
- Mild cramping
If you develop any moderate or severe pain after the embryo transfer, contact your doctor. He or she will evaluate you for any complications such as infection, hyperstimulation syndrome, or twisting of an ovary.
Step Nine: Progesterone Support and Waiting
On the day of your egg retrieval, before the embryo transfer, you will start taking progesterone supplements. Usually, progesterone is given during IVF treatment as a self-injection of progesterone oil. However, sometimes it can be taken as a pill, vaginal gel, or vaginal suppository.
Besides the progesterone, there isn’t much else you need to do for the next two weeks except getting plenty of rest and wait.
For some people, the two week wait can be much more difficult emotionally than the few weeks of treatment they’ve just undergone. Often the reason for this is you will have been visiting your doctor every few days, but during the two week wait there will be a sudden lull in activity.
If you have any questions during this time, such as ‘can you have sex?’ and ‘what if you have cramps?’, contact us. We will address any and all of your concerns.
Step Ten: The Blood Test
Approximately two weeks after your embryos transfer, you will be given a blood test to measure your hCG hormonal levels (human chorionic gonadotropin levels). If there is plenty of hCG in your bloodstream, this usually means you will have a positive pregnancy test. We will let you know exactly when you need to have your blood test taken, as it may vary for some patients.
Step Eleven: IVF Process Follow-Up
If you have had a positive pregnancy test – congratulations! We may suggest that you keep taking progesterone supplements for another few weeks, but we will monitor your pregnancy closely and support you throughout this new exciting stage.
If, however, your pregnancy test has come back negative we will meet you for a follow-up appointment and also provide fertility counselling. We will ask you to stop taking the progesterone supplements and you will wait for your period to start. During this time, our specialists will explain what happened and offer you any support you need. When you are ready, you can discuss with us what your next steps might be.
Having an unsuccessful IVF treatment cycle is never an easy experience. In fact, for many, it is absolutely heart-breaking. However, it is important to remember that just because one treatment cycle hasn’t worked, doesn’t mean you won’t be successful if you try again. There are many options available to you and at Wessex Fertility we are dedicated to helping you have the family you’ve always dreamed of.
How Long Does the IVF Process Take from Start to Finish?
The main question we get asked is how long the IVF process is. As you can see from our step-by-step explanation, the IVF process is hugely detailed and, depending on your medical conditions and your progress, the IVF process from start to finish may vary.
If you would like the IVF process explained further, to discover whether it would be an option for you, please get in touch with us. We would be more than happy to answer your questions, advise you, and start you on the journey to your dream family.