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How does an IVF cycle work? holisticher

How does an IVF cycle work?

In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, was first introduced to the world in 1978.  Since then, millions of IVF babies have been born across the globe.
IVF itself is the process of removing eggs from the body, fertilizing eggs with sperm in a laboratory to form embryos, growing embryos in the laboratory for several days, and then transferring an embryo(s)back into the uterus.   
In case you’ve ever wondered how this all actually works, we’ve summarized the process for you here step by step.
How does an IVF cycle work? holisticher

1) First day of your period 

The first day of your menstrual cycle starts the beginning of an IVF cycle.  If you’re commencing treatment, you’ll want to contact your fertility specialist to let them know that you’ve started bleeding.

2) Ovarian stimulation 

Women will normally release/ovulate one egg per cycle.  With IVF, you will be prescribed medications to stimulate the ovaries to develop more than one egg. The medications are usually in the form of injections that are given daily for usually around 10 days starting with your period. 

Over the course of those 10 days, you should be visiting your doctor every few days so that they can monitor how you are responding to the hormones. The monitoring is usually done with vaginal ultrasounds and blood tests.  

When the ovaries are ready and several eggs have hopefully developed, you will use a different injection to “trigger” your ovulation.  Right before you are about to ovulate, your fertility specialist will call you back in to do the egg retrieval. 

3) Egg retrieval 

An egg retrieval is the process of removing the eggs from your body. This is done using a long thin needle that goes through the top of the vagina and into the ovary.  Often you are asleep under anaesthesia, or are sedated, so that you should feel as little discomfort as possible. The whole procedure usually takes less than 20 minutes.  After the procedure, you will recover at the doctor’s clinic for a short while and then go home to rest for the day.   

4) Fertilization 

The eggs are mixed with sperm in the laboratory. This mixing can be done by natural fertilization, where a droplet containing thousands of sperm are placed with the egg overnight or it can be done by ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection).  ICSI is when a single best sperm is injected directly into the egg.   

5) Growing Embryos 

A fertilized egg is called an embryo.  These embryos are watched and nurtured as they grow in the laboratory for 5-6 days.  They are placed in a special incubator with a mix of amino acids that mimic the way your body would nurture the embryo.  An embryo grows from a fertilized egg to a 2 cell embryo to a 4 cell to a 6 and 8 cell embryo to a morula (where the cells start to compact together) to a day 5 embryo called a blastocyst. 

Once, and if, it has reached blastocyst stage, the embryo can to be placed into the uterus to achieve a pregnancy.     

Unfortunately, not all eggs can be fertilized or will be fertilized by sperm.  Even if the eggs can be fertilized, not all will grow and reach the blastocyst stage. 

A certain number of eggs and embryos are expected to be lost, which is why the ovaries are stimulated at the start to develop multiple eggs.  

6) Embryo transfer 

The embryo transfer is a very simple process.  The embryo is placed in a small tube called a catheter and the catheter is passed through your cervix and into your uterus where the embryo is gently placed.  This is done while monitoring with an ultrasound and is painless. 

Some patients choose to test the embryos to make sure they have the right number of chromosomes before transferring them back into the uterus.  Most chromosomally abnormal embryos will not lead to a pregnancy but if it does, almost all will miscarry. Other patients choose to skip the testing.   

7) Pregnancy Test 

Approximately nine days after your embryo transfer you will usually visit your specialist for a pregnancy blood test.  This test will measure the levels of the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in your blood. If some hCG is detected in your bloodstream, it means you have a positive pregnancy test and that it’s hopefully time to celebrate.

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