IVF is an assisted reproductive technique in which eggs are collected from your ovaries and fertilized with the sperm in a specialized laboratory. The fertilised egg (embryo) is allowed to grow in a protected environment for some days before being transferred into the woman’s uterus increasing the chance that a pregnancy will occur.
The process of fertilisation take place over a few hours and a number of embryos can form. The embryos are grown in the laboratory until Day 5, known as the Blastocyst stage, because there is strong evidence that these embryos are more likely to implant into the uterus. Fertilised embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus in a simple procedure call an embryo transfer. If more than two embryos develop, the surplus can be frozen for use in subsequent cycles. If there are issues around sperm quality, the process of fertilisation is carried out by Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). This is where one sperm is inserted into each egg.
How is it done?
The complete procedure of IVF cycle may last from four to six weeks. The step-by-step procedure of IVF includes:
Step 1- Ovulation Stimulation:
During the stimulation phase of an IVF cycle, patients self-administer hormones. The length of the stimulation phase depends on the response to the medication regimen. Monitoring with blood tests and ultrasound of the ovaries tracks this response.
Step 2- Egg retrieval:
You will be put under mild sedation and the eggs are collected with a hollow needle that is attached to the ultrasound probe. After egg retrieval, you are asked to use the medication that prepares the lining of the womb for embryo transfer. Eggs can sometimes be stored if you want to delay the process of becoming pregnant.
Step 3- Sperm retrieval:
Your partner is asked to produce a semen sample. The specimen is washed thoroughly, and the sperms that show maximum motility are selected. Such sperms can be used fresh for fertilizing the egg or frozen and used later on.
Step 4- Fertilizing the eggs.
Retrieved eggs are fertilized either by conventional insemination, the placement of eggs and sperm in a culture-containing dish, or by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The eggs are regularly monitored to confirm the fertilization.
Step 5- Embryo transfer into the uterus:
Embryologists monitor the embryos’ growth and viability to determine whether a day 3 or day 5 transfer should be done. Embryo transfers three days after retrieval when the embryo contains four-to-eight cells) may be done or embryos are often transferred five days after retrieval and fertilization (Day 5 transfer or blastocyst transfer). A small catheter is inserted through which the embryo is placed in your uterus. If the procedure is successful, it takes about six to ten days for the implantation to occur.
The embryologist evaluates any remaining embryos for cryopreservation (freezing). Embryo cryopreservation gives patients who wish to have another child the option to have an embryo transferred at a later date without having to complete another IVF cycle.
Two weeks after retrieval, a pregnancy blood test is performed. If this test is positive, the patient is considered four weeks pregnant.
Are there any risks with IVF?
Though IVF is a safe procedure, some women may develop minor problems.
- While you are on fertility drugs you may experience the side effects of headache, mood swings, and abdominal pain.
- While collecting your egg, you may have a little bleeding, damage to the bladder or infection.
- Use of fertility medications may also cause ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome which is a very rare condition.
Note: You should immediately notify the doctor if you experience any of the following.
- Decreased urinary frequency
- Severe stomach pain and bloating
- Rapid weight gain within three to five days after the procedure