The In Vitro Fertilization Process: A Close Look

In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, I the process of combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish and then transferring the embryo into the uterus. Women who have been unsuccessful getting pregnant the natural way often turn to a fertility specialist to undergo IVF treatments and many are required to take certain fertility medications to control the timing of the eggs and improve results. If you have been struggling with infertility and are ready to pursue treatment with a fertility specialist, here’s what you can expect with the In Vitro Fertilization process:

IVF Fertility Medications

In order to encourage egg ripening, a woman may be required to take fertility medications. These medications are often called ovulation induction medications because they increase the amount of eggs released during each cycle. The woman may also undergo hormone level checks and need to have an ovarian examination to make sure that she is producing enough eggs on her own. Most doctors prescribe Clomid to women with ovulation disorders. Injectable hormones are another option. Some of the most common types of injectable fertility medications include:
  • Human Menopausal Gonadotropin (hMG)
  • Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
  • Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone Antagonist (GnRH antagonist)
Injectable fertility drugs are administered beneath the skin or into the muscle, and the injections are typically started on the second or third day of the menstrual cycle. Side effects can include tenderness, blisters and swelling at the injection site.

IVF Surgical Procedure

Once the eggs have been released, the fertility specialist will need to retrieve them from the pelvic cavity using a small needle. This surgical procedure is typically done under local anesthesia and the eggs are removed from the ovaries using a process called follicular aspiration. This is a relatively minor procedure, but can cause cramping and discomfort for several hours after surgery.

IVF Insemination Procedure

After a set of healthy, high quality eggs have been retrieved, the male must provide sperm for the combining procedure. The sperm and eggs are placed in a small incubator so that the fertilization process can begin. If the fertilization rate is too low, the fertility specialist may inject sperm directly into the egg. Fertilized eggs are then considered to be embryos and are prepared for the embryo transfer.

Embryo Transfer for IVF Treatment

The embryo transfer procedure is typically conducted about two to three days after the egg retrieval process. The fertilized egg will have divided into a two-to-four cell embryo at this time, and the embryo is inserted directly into the vagina using a speculum. Once the embryo has been inserted, the area may be monitored with an ultrasound machine and the woman will need to keep track of any pregnancy symptoms. Frequent blood tests and an ultrasound may be conducted to determine whether the embryo transfer was successful.
Learn more about IVF treatments in our information guide, or consult with an IVF specialist in your area to find out if you may be a good candidate for in vitro fertilization and variations of this procedure.