In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a popular choice for couples struggling to conceive naturally. As exciting as it can be to make the decision to pursue parenthood through IVF, it can also be a stressful time for some couples who view IVF as their last chance of having a child. There are many steps involved in IVF and this can make the process seem confusing or overwhelming, but understanding what to expect at each stage can help you feel more in control and assured during the treatment. Here are each of the stages of the IVF process explained.
Stopping The Natural Menstrual Cycle
The initial stage of IVF may not feel like it makes sense, but stopping your natural menstrual cycle allows your doctor greater control over the second step in the process and can allow things to go more smoothly. You will be given synthetic hormones to stop your natural cycle.
Stimulating Egg Production
The second stage involves self-administering hormone injections to stimulate egg production. Your ovaries will release several eggs at once, and having several to choose from allows your doctor to select the healthiest of eggs and increases the chance of a healthy and viable embryo being formed later in the process.
Retrieving The Eggs
To retrieve the eggs that are released from your ovaries, you will attend an outpatient appointment and your doctor will use a thin tube to reach your eggs. The tube is inserted through your vagina and when it reaches your fallopian tubes, a small needle will be guided along the tube and your doctor will extract each egg by drawing it up through the needle.
Fertilising The Eggs
To fertilise the collected eggs, a sperm sample needs to be provided. You may be able to produce this sample at home or in the clinic. The sperm will be cleaned and the healthiest sperm will be extracted for use during egg fertilisation. The eggs and sperm are mixed together and fertilised eggs are allowed to grow in lab conditions for around a week. At this stage, the fertilised eggs are called embryos, and your doctor will select the strongest, healthiest embryo for transfer.
Transferring The Embryo
To prepare your body for the transfer of the embryo, you will be given medication to thicken the lining of your uterus, which improves the chance of the embryo implanting and continuing to develop. The embryo will be transferred to your uterus through a tube that's inserted into your vagina. You then have to wait for two weeks and have a pregnancy test carried out to determine whether the embryo has successfully implanted in your uterus. The waiting is often the most difficult stage in the process for couples, and if you feel that you need some emotional support, ask your doctor or nurse for details of fertility counselling services in your local area.
If you'd like more information about IVF, you can discuss the process with your doctor or local fertility clinic.