In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has helped countless couples to conceive. It’s not a new treatment. In fact, it’s been around for more than 35 years. The process of IVF can be divided into six stages. Knowing what to expect in advance is a great help to couples who are considering this method as a means to conceive their child.
Step # 1: Initial Consultation
At your initial consultation, the doctor will do a little test run using a very thin catheter to determine just how to work with you when the time for implanting a blastocyst comes. Although it is mildly uncomfortable, it doesn’t hurt and only takes a short time. Then the doctor plans a timeline with you. Remember that it may have to be adjusted depending on your response to medication. Quite often, you will start by taking birth control pills so that your doctor can regulate your cycle.
Step # 2: Ovarian Stimulation
You would usually only produce one egg every month, but now medications are used to help the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. During this phase, you will have to go in for regular monitoring consisting of ultrasounds and blood tests that measure your estrogen levels. This will help your doctor to determine when to trigger ovulation and retrieve the eggs.
Step #3 Trigger shot and egg retrieval
When your doctor judges that your eggs are ready, ovulation is initiated with the help of the ‘trigger shot’. 36 hours later, you will undergo a minor surgery during which the egg is retrieved. You will not be under general anesthetic, just a sedative, and the process takes around 30 minutes.
Step #4 Embryo Development
Now it’s up to the laboratory technicians and embryologist. The eggs are fertilized using your partner’s sperm and their development is monitored by an embryologist to determine when embryo transfer should take place.
Step #5 Embryo Transfer
This simple process takes about five minutes and is exactly like step 1. The fertilized eggs aren’t visible to the naked eye yet. You will be advised as to how many embryos should be transferred. Doctors usually prefer to limit the risk of a multiple pregnancy and where possible, only one is transferred. The embryo or embryos are transferred into the uterus with a puff of air. Now all you have to do is wait until your pregnancy can be confirmed with a pregnancy test.
Step #6: Pregnancy test
About 18 days after your egg was retrieved and fertilized, you will go for a pregnancy test that measures the concentration of the hormone known as human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) in your bloodstream. If the test is negative, you can opt for another attempt at IVF and your doctor might alter your treatment protocol slightly to see if a change helps you to conceive successfully. Although a negative pregnancy test at this stage is very discouraging, you shouldn’t give up hope. There’s still an excellent chance of being able to become pregnant – you just have to give it another try.
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