In Vitro Fertilization (commonly referred to as IVF) is easily one of the best recognized and commonly used fertility treatment for couples who struggle to conceive. It is a process which takes time and careful consideration by both the patient and their advising medical professional, as with any medical procedure, it comes with risks and requires preparation beforehand. However, IVF has made the previously impossible possible, by giving couples across the world a new hope for conceiving children. Regardless of this, it is completely normal to feel anxious and stressed when considering and actually having the treatments.
IVF can be a long road of careful lifestyle changes and medications in order to give your body the best chance of conceiving as possible. It also comes with an inherent risk of failure (as no medical procedure is a 100% guarantee of success) and clinics should be honest and open with their clients about their chances of success. A great way to feel less anxious about IVF and the potential pitfalls is to educate yourself on the process and methods used during your treatments. This can help you know what to expect, so let’s take an overall look at the steps involved in IVF treatments.
Before you start:
Most fertility clinics and specialists will recommend that you first try and make some positive lifestyle changes for a few weeks or months leading up to beginning your treatments in earnest. Things like stop smoking and drinking, combined with healthy eating and gentle exercise will help your body be in an optimal state for reproduction. During the consultation with the patient’s chosen IVF specialists, they should run through their the patient’s habits and lifestyle and come up with a plan targeted at improving these habits and helping the patient make healthier lifestyle decisions.
For more information and help on how to properly prepare your body and lifestyle for IVF treatments and how these factors can affect your treatments, then please click the following link to take you to our article on the link between BMI and IVF.
Five Stages of IVF Treatments
IVF is usually done in individual stages and each step will involve different methods and treatments which will help you progress to your ultimate goal of conceiving.
Stage One: Medication and Egg Production
The first step your specialist will take is to prescribe you with fertility medications designed to prepare your body for pregnancy and to increase your ovaries’ egg production capabilities. More than one egg is required as some eggs will not develop properly or become resistant to fertilization further down the line. As such, groups of eggs are generally taken in order to ensure there are enough “backups” to use in case of failure with other samples. In addition to this, your chosen IVF specialist should also perform both a transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test in order to rule out any potential complications in these areas.
Stage Two: Egg Retrieval
Once your body has begun producing eggs at a suitable rate, your specialist will then go about the task of collecting these eggs in preparation for fertilization and eventual re–implantation in the uterus. This process involves the application of ultrasound imaging in order to locate the eggs and also to guide a needle through the pelvic cavity in order to retrieve the eggs. This procedure is usually done with sedatives or painkillers to avoid potential discomfort. These eggs are then stored in preparation for the next stage.
Step 3: Sperm Sampling
The male counterpart of the couple trying to conceive will then be asked to give a sperm sample in preparation for insemination which will also be tested for viability. Either before or at this time, a blood sample will be taken in order to identify and eliminate any potential blood borne or lifestyle issues that may compromise the fertilization process.
Step 4: Insemination
Insemination is the name given to the act of artificially combining the prepared sperm sample with the egg and leaving them to fertilize. The sperm sample will be exposed to the egg and fertilization will be allowed to develop. As mentioned before, the process will usually be performed on multiple different eggs in order to increase the odds of producing one viable egg. If the odds of conception are particularly low then a process known as “intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) will be used, this involves directly injecting a single sperm cell directly past the cell wall of the egg in order to fertilize the egg instantly. They are then closely and constantly monitored to ensure that both fertilization and normal cell division is occurring within the eggs. After which point, they are now referred to as “embryos” and are ready for the final stage, implantation.
Step 5: Implantation
Once cell division has been confirmed to be taking place within the embryos, they are then prepared for implantation into the woman’s uterus. This usually occurs around 3 to 5 days after the initial insemination process, and usually involves placing a catheter or tube to directly implant the eggs into the uterus of the woman. While considered by most to be painless, cramping can occur during and just after the implantation process. If everything goes well then the egg will attach to the uterus and start to develop as a normal baby.
This is obviously the best-case scenario and assumes that everything within the treatment goes smoothly. Problems and setbacks can occur, such as none of the eggs that are retrieved taking to fertilization, or the man’s sperm sample not being viable to use in insemination. In which case workarounds or other techniques are used in order to resolve these issues.
First Fertility can help assist you with the planning, preparation, and execution of your IVF treatments. We have helped countless couples conceive children through IVF where they previously thought conception was not possible. For more advice about what we can offer you and how we can help you have the family you have always wanted, please call us on (+66)98 428 0932