Playing The Long IVF Game
In vitro fertilization (IVF) involves several necessary steps and may require more than one cycle to be successful. Once an embryo has successfully implanted, a normal pregnancy is typically 40 weeks. Learning what to expect at each step of the process can help women plan for when the baby will arrive.
The initial consult
When a woman decides to move on to IVF, the first step is to set up an appointment with the fertility clinic. The doctor will review medical records, perform an exam, and recommend how best to proceed with treatment. Birth control may also need to be started at this time. While counterintuitive to many, this medication helps regulate the cycle, allowing for optimal IVF timing.
Stimulate those ovaries
The official IVF cycle usually starts on the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP), which is how pregnancy is dated. During the first half of the cycle, the patient will be given hormone medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Frequent ultrasounds and blood work will also be performed during the first 1-2 weeks to check progress.
Scheduling egg retrieval
The retrieval is scheduled once the doctor determines the eggs are a sufficient size. Approximately 36 hours before the planned retrieval, the patient will receive an injection of hormones to release the mature eggs. The next day, a thin needle is used to retrieve the eggs. Depending on how many eggs are retrieved, this step of the process may need to be repeated more than once. Some women choose the freeze the eggs at this stage, while others move right into the transfer.
Egg and sperm meet in a lab
After retrieval, the egg must be fertilized with a partner’s or donor’s sperm in the lab to make an embryo. The embryo is then grown for 3 or 5 days before being transferred back into the woman’s uterus. Once the embryo transfer is complete, the woman is sent home to rest and wait for the next 2 weeks.
Testing for pregnancy
The doctor will advise on the exact timing, but most women return to the fertility clinic for a pregnancy test about 2 weeks after the embryo transfer. This is the earliest time the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone can be identified to confirm pregnancy. If the test is negative, the patient may need to start the IVF process over again. If the pregnancy test is positive, congratulations are in order. Most women with a positive test will continue to see the fertility doctor for a few weeks before transferring to an OB/GYN later in the first trimester.
The final hurdle
After weeks of fertility treatment, what’s 40 more? Pregnancy can often feel never-ending, but time flies between the doctor’s visits, hospital tours, and getting the nursery ready. Soon enough, the contractions will start, and the baby will be on the way.