The IVF cycle starts with pre-cycle appointments and preparations and finishes with the pregnancy test. Being aware of IVF stages and knowing more about the process in general can make intended parents to be prepared for the treatment and reduce stress.
Most common reasons for a couple to consider IVF are: closed or removed tubes, poor ovarian reserve or inability to conceive naturally within 1 year. Female’s age directly reflects ovarian reserve and fertility. The younger the female is the higher her chances are to conceive. After the age of 40 there is a risk of infertility and ovarian reserve failure.
IVF process consists of 4 basic steps
- Controlled ovarian stimulation – Prior to that stage a fertility specialist assesses the female ovarian reserve and suggests the best treatment protocol. Following factors should be considered by your fertility specialist BMI (body mass index), Hormone Levels (AMH, FSH, E2, TSH, T3, T4, LH, Prolactin), ultrasound scan for calculating follicles in both ovaries and make sure there is no functioning cysts. Most women start taking fertility medicine on day 2 or 3 of their menstrual bleeding. In average hormone stimulation process lasts from 12 to 14 days. The eggs are collected after the follicle reaches minimum 17-18 mm.
- Egg retrieval – When fertility specialist decides that the patient’s eggs have sufficiently developed, he prescribes the hCG injection to trigger ovulation. Around 36 to 48 hours after hCG injection infertility doctor will perform egg retrieval. With the help of an aspiration needle, guided by ultrasound scan, the liquid which surrounds each egg is carefully collected and then carried to the laboratory. In the laboratory eggs are isolated from the fluid and prepared for further fertilization with the sperm.
- Embryo fertilization – Nowadays mostly all fertility centers prefer to use ICSI method for embryo fertilization. During this technique the embryologist is using a high-powered microscope to pick up a single spermatozoa and injects it directly into the egg cytoplasm. The embryos that result from this fertilization are incubated and monitored for further development.
- Embryo transfer – Commonly embryos are transferred on day 3 or day 5 after the oocyte retrieval. Embryo transfer is a simple procedure carried out without anesthesia. Fertility Professionals use soft catheter to place the embryos into the uterine cavity through the cervix. After the embryo transfer patients are advised to continue their daily lives following fertility doctor’s recommendations. Pregnancy test day will be scheduled after 12-13 days. Fertility Doctors recommend avoiding home pregnancy testing and performing Beta HCG blood test for detecting early pregnancy.
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