Treatments & Options - IVF - Procedures

No matter how prepared you are for the IVF procedure, it is always helpful to review all the facts. In this topic center we explore many issues related to the IVF process, including emotional and medical factors.

Below, we offer a brief overview of what to expect when undergoing IVF.

Phase 1: Before IVF begins
Before and during the IVF process, your doctor will monitor your ovaries and the timing of the egg release. Your doctor will make sure that your ovaries are producing eggs, and that your hormone levels are normal, among other procedures. Most women take fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries to produce one or more eggs. Having several eggs available for IVF will increase the chances that you will get pregnant.

Phase 2: Egg retrieval
During this phase, pain medication is given to reduce any discomfort. Then a very thin needle is passed through the upper vaginal wall. With the use of vaginal ultrasound, fluid is removed from the follicles under gentle suction. After aspiration of the follicle, the oocyte (egg) is isolated from the follicular fluid. At this point, some women choose to freeze embryos cryogenically for later use. The best eggs are placed in a culture dish and then transferred to the incubator in a controlled lab. In some cases, donor eggs may be used for IVF, and this phase is skipped.

Phase 3: Fertilization
The next step of the IVF process is the fertilization of the egg. A sperm sample is secured, either from your partner or a donor, and the most active sperm is mixed with the egg in a special chamber. Sometimes the sperm is directly injected into the egg, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The sperm and egg are placed in an incubator and monitored to make sure that a healthy embryo develops.

Phase 4: Embryo transfer and implantation
The final step of the IVF process is the embryo transfer. First, the embryos are examined to select the healthiest ones for transfer. To transfer the embryo(s), a speculum is placed into your vagina and the embryo(s) are transferred via a small plastic tube placed through the cervix into the uterine cavity.  After the IVF process is complete, bed rest is often advised for around 24 hours. Multiple embryos may be implanted into the womb, increasing chances of success and increasing the chances of multiple births.