What actually happens to a woman during IVF?



What actually happens to a woman during IVF?




Since 1978, IVF has helped bring over five million children into the world. Although the process has been available since the 1970s, many people do not fully understand how the procedure works. Below we outline the 6 steps required for successful IVF treatment.



Stage One: Suppressing the Natural Menstrual Cycle

The woman is given medication in order to suppress the natural menstrual cycle. This is administrated as a daily injection or as a nasal spray and will continue for around two weeks.


Stage Two: Boosting the Egg Supply

Once the natural cycle is suppressed, the woman takes a fertility hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This is also a daily injection which can be self administrated and continues for a little under two weeks. FSH increases the number of eggs that your ovaries produce. This means more eggs can be collected and fertilised. More fertilised eggs will allow the clinic to have a greater choice of embryos to use in the treatment.


Stage Three: Checking Progress

Naturally the clinic will keep watch on the woman during treatment and will be given a vaginal ultrasound scan to monitor the ovaries. Around 34-38 hours before the eggs are due to be collected, a final hormone injection will be given which will help the eggs to mature.


Stage Four: Collecting the Eggs

The woman will be sedated as the eggs are collected using a needle that is passed through the vagina and into each ovary under ultrasound guidance. This minor procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes, some women experience cramps or a small amount of vaginal bleeding following.


Stage Five: Fertilising the Eggs

The collected eggs are mixed with the partner's or donor's sperm in a lab and after 16 to 20 hours, they are checked to see if any have been fertilised. In some cases, each egg needs to be injected individually with a single sperm. This is known as intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

The fertilised eggs continue to grow in a lab for up to six days, before being  transferred into the womb. After the egg collection, the woman will be given hormone medicines to help prepare the lining of the womb to receive the embryo.


Stage Six: Embryo Transfer

A few days after the eggs are collected, the embryos are transferred into the womb. This is achieved using a thin tube called a catheter that is passed into the vagina. This procedure is simpler than egg collection and similar to having a cervical screening test. The number of embryos that will be transferred should be discussed before treatment starts and usually depends on age. Any remaining embryos may be frozen for future IVF attempts.

Content provided by the NHS