The IVF Process: A Step-by-Step Inside Look

ivf processIn vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology. It refers to a process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish.

After monitoring embryo development, one or multiple embryos are transferred to the uterus of a woman. If any resulting embryos remain, they are frozen through a process known as vitrification.

Typically, IVF is offered as a fertility treatment for women over the age of 40. It is also an option if you or your partner suffers from any of the following conditions:

  • Endometriosis
  • A genetic disorder
  • Fallopian tube damage or blockage
  • Fertility preservation for health conditions or medical treatments
  • Ovulation disorders
  • Previous sperm production or function
  • Previous tubal sterilization or removal
  • Unexplained infertility
  • Uterine fibroids

How to Prepare for IVF

Depending on your unique needs, you and your partner may need to undergo fertility diagnostic testing before you undergo the IVF process. Common types of diagnostic testing include:

  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) – An hysterosalpingogram (HSG) is a diagnostic X-ray that detects blockages of your fallopian tubes. It provides insight into any abnormalities on the inside of your uterus (uterine cavity).
  • Infectious disease screening – You and your partner should be screened for infectious diseases.
  • Ovarian reserve testingOvarian reserve testing provides a baseline of your fertility health. On day 2-5 of your menstrual cycle, a doctor will perform an AFC ultrasound and bloodwork to determine the quality and quantity of your eggs.
  • Saline Sonohysterogram (SHG) – The saline sonohysterogram (SHG) is a diagnostic ultrasound that detects abnormal structures on the inside of your uterus (uterine cavity). It provides insight into blockages of your fallopian tubes.
  • Semen analysis – A semen analysis measures three major factors of male sperm health: the count, the motility (movement), and the morphology (shape).

The IVF Process

After you undergo fertility testing and medical testing, you can begin the IVF process, which involves several steps. One cycle of IVF takes about two to three weeks, and more than one cycle may be required. Altogether, the process requires two to three months to complete.

Preparation for Ovarian Stimulation

To begin, a patient may be placed on birth control for one month. By doing so, patients can control the timing of their cycle, decrease the chances of cyst production, and synchronize follicle production.

Ovarian Stimulation and Monitoring

In a natural monthly cycle, the body usually releases one egg from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes. During an in vitro fertilization cycle, we increase the number of eggs produced to create multiple embryos for treatment.

Ovarian stimulation increases follicle production, which also increases the number of mature eggs within the ovaries for egg retrieval. To stimulate the ovaries, medication is administered daily through a tiny needle injection for 8-14 days.

While on stimulation medication, regular monitoring via ultrasound and blood tests is required. Ultrasound monitoring measures egg follicle growth, as well as the increasing thickness of the uterine lining. Blood work monitors estrogen levels, which rise as follicles develop.

Once follicle development and estrogen levels reach optimal numbers, the final medication step is a trigger shot, which allows the eggs to develop to the final stage of maturation and begins the ovulation process.

Egg Retrieval Procedure

Approximately 36 hours after the trigger shot, the egg retrieval will occur. During the 15-minute procedure, a patient is placed under sedation. Using ultrasound guidance, a needle is guided into each follicle and aspirated for collection.

The number of eggs obtained during a retrieval will vary based on the patient’s response to stimulation, ovarian reserve, age, and other factors. Some patients experience spotting, blotting, and mild discomfort. However, most patients fully recover within one or two days.

Fresh or frozen sperm can be used to inseminate the eggs. If a fresh sample is being used, on the same day as the egg retrieval, a sperm sample must also be collected. Therefore, it is best to abstain from ejaculation for two or more days prior to sample collection.

Egg Fertilization Through Sperm Injection

The eggs and sperm are taken to an embryology lab, where they are placed in optimal conditions to foster growth. The eggs can be inseminated via two methods – conventional insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The eggs and sperm are placed in an incubator to facilitate fertilization and embryo development.

Monitoring of Embryo Development

Embryologists will closely monitor the growth and development of embryos, starting with the observation of fertilization. Due to various reasons such as genetic abnormality or inadequate embryo development, there will be fertilized eggs that do not develop into healthy embryos.

Embryo Transfer Procedure

Dependent upon embryo development, embryos are transferred anywhere from three to six days after fertilization. An embryologist evaluates every embryo and selects the most viable embryos for transfer.

To improve the chances of a healthy singleton baby, it is recommended to transfer one embryo, depending on the age of the patient and the quality of embryos.

Using a soft, ultra-thin catheter, under ultrasound guidance, an embryo is transferred into the uterus. Without the use of anesthesia, the procedure takes two minutes and is comparable to a pap smear in terms of discomfort.

Freezing of Remaining Embryos

The remaining embryos will be cryopreserved, or vitrified, using a fast-freezing and critical process called vitrification.

If the cycle does not result in pregnancy, the remaining frozen embryos can allow for future pregnancy opportunities. Due to scientific advances, the success rates of a frozen embryo transfer are compared to that of a fresh embryo transfer.

Pregnancy Test

Approximately two weeks after the embryo transfer, patients will undergo a blood pregnancy test to receive their test results.

Success Rates of the IVF Process

The success rates of the IVF process are higher than many other fertility treatments. However, the success rate is based on several factors, including reproductive history, maternal age, the cause of infertility, and other lifestyle factors.

In the United States, the live birth success rate for every IVF cycle ranges from 40-70%. Women under the age of 35 have a success rate of 40%.

At Vios in Hoffman Estates, Conception is Our Mission

At Vios Fertility Institute in Hoffman Estates and at our other locations, we aspire to make your dreams of parenthood a reality. During your initial consultation, we will discuss your medical history, your family building goals, and review available fertility treatments with you.

While we have other locations in Northern Illinois, Vios Hoffman Estates is most convenient to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Mount Prospect.

To learn more about the IVF process and other types of fertility testing, contact us to schedule your first appointment.