Average times and preparation
On average, one complete IVF cycle takes about 3 weeks. This timeline can vary, however, based on a few factors. Is the couple using the female partner’s eggs or donor eggs? Women may need to take hormones leading up to IVF to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Typically, a couple can expect to add an extra 1-2 weeks to the timeline if hormone medications are part of the process.
What about egg retrieval and fertilization?
The timing of egg retrieval can be a delicate process. Typically, women need to have egg retrieval done about 34-36 hours after the final medication dose and before ovulation. On the same day, the male partner may provide a sperm sample. Then, the fertility specialist mixes the egg and sperm for fertilization. Sometimes, couples may opt to use a technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injections (ICSI), where the sperm is injected directly into the egg.
Understanding embryo transfer
Embryos typically remain in an incubator for 5-6 days. At this point, couples may have preimplantation genetic testing (PGT). PGT evaluates the embryos for specific genetic diseases. If there are viable embryos, the couple typically comes back to the clinic for embryo transfer about 2-5 days after the egg retrieval appointment. If everything goes as planned, the embryo implants into the woman’s uterus after about 6-10 days.
What throws off the timeline?
There are a few reasons why a couple might experience hiccups in the IVF timeline. For example, a woman may take hormone medications for 2 weeks and still not produce enough eggs for the egg retrieval process. The woman may need to take different medications for another few weeks. Poor sperm quality may affect the fertilization process. Embryos may also not develop properly for implantation. In any of these situations, the current IVF cycle is considered canceled, and the couple starts a new round of IVF if desired.
Growing your family
IVF can be a lengthy or stressful process. However, couples should remember to stay focused on the overall goal: growing a family. Couples may focus on mental health and stress reduction by speaking with a therapist, joining a support group, or taking up a new hobby such as yoga or meditation. For more information about IVF or alternate assisted reproductive technology (ART) options, speak with a fertility specialist.