How does IVF work? A step-by-step guide from an REI
As a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist (REI), I work with couples who are struggling with infertility and are looking for ways to conceive. One of the most common treatments we offer is In vitro fertilization (IVF). But, how does IVF work? IVF is a complex medical procedure that involves several steps, each of which is critical to the success of the treatment.
The first step in the typical IVF journey is an initial consultation. During this consultation, we review the couple’s medical history, perform a physical examination and assess their infertility diagnosis. We also discuss the couple’s options, and answer any questions or concerns they may have about the procedure. This consultation is a critical step to ensure that the couple is well-informed and prepared for the IVF journey.
The next step is ovarian stimulation. This involves using medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. This step typically takes 8-14 days and involves daily injections of hormones that are administered by the patient or their partner. During this time, we monitor the patient’s hormone levels and follicular development to determine the optimal time for egg retrieval.
The third step in the IVF journey is egg retrieval. This is a minor surgical procedure that is performed under sedation or general anesthesia. During the procedure, a needle is guided through the vaginal wall and into the ovaries to retrieve the mature eggs. The eggs are then taken to the laboratory for fertilization.
The fourth step is fertilization. The eggs are mixed with sperm in the laboratory, and we use a technique called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) to inject a single sperm into each mature egg. The eggs are then observed in the laboratory for signs of fertilization and development.
The fifth step is embryo culture. Once the eggs have been fertilized, the resulting embryos are cultured in the laboratory for several days to allow them to grow and develop. During this time, we carefully monitor the embryos for quality and viability.
The sixth and final step is embryo transfer. This is a relatively simple procedure that involves placing the embryos into the uterus via a thin catheter. The patient does not typically require anesthesia, and the procedure is done on an outpatient basis.
Following the embryo transfer, the patient will undergo a pregnancy test to determine if the procedure was successful. If the test is positive, the patient will continue to receive medical care and monitoring throughout the pregnancy.
The IVF journey can be challenging, but it is also a rewarding experience for many couples who are looking to start a family. At our clinic, we provide compassionate care and support to our patients at every step of the way.