How is IVF done?

In vitro fertilisation is performed in a fertility clinic by infertility specialists. The doctors involved have specialised in either andrology (male reproduction) or gynaecology (female reproduction). IVF can be used to treat many forms of infertility, enabling couples to have their own child after years of trying.

Fertility clinics around the world have their own methods of carrying out IVF and the details of the process depend on your particular situation and also on national regulations and guidelines. Not every cycle of IVF does result in pregnancy: IVF success rates vary between 30 % and 45 %, so it is likely that many couples will need several attempts at IVF before they achieve a successful outcome.

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In general, the process of IVF involves:

  • Suppression of the woman’s usual menstrual cycle using a hormone injection on day 3 of her natural period.
  • Injections of follicle stimulating hormone daily for about two weeks to encourage the woman’s ovaries to produce several eggs.
  • An injection to mature the eggs about 36 hours before they are collected.
  • Sperm collection or surgical sperm retrieval [Link to /treatments/surgical-sperm-retrieval-pesa-tesa-mesa/] so that the sperm are ready to fertilise the eggs.
  • Egg collection to remove several eggs from each ovary.
  • IVF – the moment of in vitro fertilisation. Sperm and eggs are either mixed together and allowed to fertilise naturally, or a single sperm is injected into a single egg using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). [Link to /treatments/intra-cytoplasmic-sperm-injection-icsi/]
  • Embryo transfer. A single embryo (one that is two to three days old) or a single blastocyst (an embryo that is five to six days old) or two, three or more can be transferred into the woman’s fallopian tube to travel down into the uterus to implant. Different fertility clinics and different countries of the world vary in how many embryos or blastocysts they allow to be transferred. Younger women may be allowed fewer embryos as this reduces the risk of a multiple pregnancy. 
  • Pregnancy testing will reveal whether one or more of the embryos has implanted. A pregnancy initiated by IVF then proceeds as a normal pregnancy and, if all goes well, a baby is born nine months later.

The process above describes an IVF cycle in which fresh embryos are transferred. It is also possible to have a frozen embryo transfer, in which embryos stored from an earlier IVF cycle are thawed and transferred. In this case, the uterus needs to be prepared to receive the embryos, but the woman does not need hormone treatment to stimulate her ovaries, as egg collection is not necessary.

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