The IVF process involves several steps that help make parenthood possible
As you start to explore in vitro fertilization, you’ll discover that this fertility treatment involves multiple steps. It can seem a little overwhelming at first, but our Austin fertility doctors will guide you through every step of the IVF process. Our nurses will also be there to hold your hand and answer any questions that pop up along the way.
To help you learn what to expect from this highly effective fertility treatment, we’ve created this guide to explain the different in vitro fertilization steps.
Ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval are the first steps of the IVF process
Once you’ve met with one of our Austin fertility doctors and undergone fertility testing to determine whether IVF is right for you, you’ll begin the first step. For many women, this step involves taking birth control pills. For others, it involves starting estrogen only pills in the last week of your menstrual cycle. Doing so can help with the timing of your treatment cycle. It can also result in more follicles being ready to respond once you begin your ovarian stimulation medications.
You’ll then begin taking the stimulation medications (gonadotropins) as part of the IVF process. You will self-inject these medications each day using a tiny needle. While you’re taking these medications, you will visit our office every two to three days for monitoring ultrasounds and bloodwork.
When your largest egg-containing follicles reach 18-20 mm, your doctor will order a trigger shot of hCG, Ovidrel® or Lupron®. You’ll then have an outpatient egg retrieval procedure about 36 hours later. During the retrieval, you will receive light IV sedation to keep you comfortable while your doctor retrieves your eggs directly from the ovaries using transvaginal aspiration.
Fertilization and embryo transfer are the final in vitro fertilization steps
Next in the IVF process, our team will identify your eggs in the follicular fluid that your doctor has removed, and place them in a special solution (culture media) in a petri dish. Approximately five hours later, our embryologists will fertilize the eggs using traditional IVF fertilization or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
- Traditional fertilization involves placing sperm into the petri dish that contains the eggs.
- ICSI involves injecting a single sperm into each egg. This is a great option when severe male factor infertility (low sperm count, low motility or a low percentage of normal shaped sperm) is an issue.
Approximately 18 hours after insemination or ICSI, our embryologists will look at your eggs under a high power microscope in order to determine whether fertilization has occurred. Successful fertilization is indicated by the presence of two pronuclei (one pronucleus from the egg and one from the sperm). Fertilized eggs are called “embryos”.
As the embryo develops in the lab, we may change out the culture media in the petri dish. Each specific media that we use is designed to chemically mimic the fluid found in a woman’s fallopian tubes and/or uterus during the different stages of embryo development.
Although we do almost exclusively frozen embryo transfers in our program, we occasionally will perform a fresh transfer. This is usually done for very specific reasons. Fresh transfers occur on Day 5 of embryonic development. Frozen embryo transfers typically occur somewhere between the sixth and seventh days of progesterone administration. At those points, an embryo typically contains about 100-130 or so cells. Our team selects a healthy embryo, as determined by a visual inspection and/or preimplantation genetic testing (PGT). One of our Austin fertility doctors will then transfer a single embryo into your uterus. By transferring just one embryo, we significantly reduce the likelihood of having a high risk multiple pregnancy. Any extra high quality embryos will be frozen for your future use.
About nine days after your transfer, you will have a pregnancy test to determine whether you’ve conceived.
If you’d like to learn more about the IVF process and whether it can help you welcome a baby, please contact us. Our team is here to help you on your path to parenthood.