IVF: Understanding the Step-by-Step Procedure

Oct 12, 2023

IVF Treatment

IVF: Understanding the Step-by-Step Procedure IVF: Understanding the Step-by-Step Procedure

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a widely used assisted reproductive technology that helps many couples achieve their dream of parenthood. This complex medical procedure involves several steps, each carefully orchestrated to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. In this blog, we'll take you through the step-by-step procedure of IVF, shedding light on what happens at each stage.

Step 1: Ovulation Induction
The first step in IVF involves stimulating the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Typically, women release only one egg per menstrual cycle, but IVF aims to retrieve multiple eggs for fertilization. To achieve this, a fertility specialist prescribes medications like FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) to stimulate egg production. Regular monitoring through blood tests and ultrasounds helps track follicle growth.

Step 2: Egg Retrieval
Once the follicles containing mature eggs have reached the appropriate size, it's time for egg retrieval. This minor surgical procedure, performed under sedation or anaesthesia, involves a thin needle inserted through the vaginal wall to collect the eggs from the ovaries. The collected eggs are then examined in the laboratory to assess their maturity and quality.

Step 3: Sperm Collection
On the same day as egg retrieval, the male partner provides a sperm sample. In certain cases, when sperm quality issues arise or in the absence of a male partner, the lab can use donor sperm. The lab then prepares and processes the sperm to choose the healthiest and most active sperm for fertilization.

Step 4: Fertilization
The most critical stage of IVF is fertilization, where the eggs and sperm are combined in a controlled environment. This can be done using two main methods: Processed sperm sample, where sperm is placed with the eggs in a culture dish, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is directly injected into each mature egg. The fertilized eggs, now called embryos, are monitored for further development.

Step 5: Embryo Culture
After fertilization, a special incubator, mimicking the conditions of the female reproductive tract, cultures the embryos. Professionals carefully monitor them for signs of proper development and cell division. Typically, they culture embryos for 3 to 5 days before proceeding to the next step.

Step 6: Embryo Transfer
Once the embryos have reached an appropriate stage of development, one or more of them are selected for transfer into the woman's uterus. This is a minimally invasive procedure that doesn't require anaesthesia. The embryos are inserted into the uterus via a tiny catheter. The age of the woman and the quality of the embryos are two of the many variables that affect how many embryos are transferred.

Step 7: Luteal Phase Support
Prescribing medications such as progesterone to support the uterine lining and enhance implantation chances typically follows the embryo transfer. Conducting pregnancy tests about 10-14 days after the embryo transfer determines the procedure's success.

Step 8: Cryopreservation (Optional)
Any remaining high-quality embryos that were not transferred can be cryopreserved (frozen) for future use. This eliminates the need to go through the entire IVF process again if the first attempt is unsuccessful or if the couple wishes to have more children later on.

In vitro fertilization is a complex and highly effective fertility treatment that has helped countless couples build their families. Understanding the step-by-step procedure can demystify the process and provide hope for those struggling with infertility. While IVF offers hope, it's important to remember that success rates can vary, and the process can be emotionally and financially challenging. Consulting with a fertility specialist can provide personalized guidance and support throughout the IVF journey.