Timeline To Baby

When faced with infertility, women have a few different assisted reproductive technology (ART) options available to help with conception. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an excellent treatment with high success rates, but many patients wonder how long the entire process will take. Although each situation is unique, most women should prepare for at least 4-6 weeks of treatment.


Preparing for IVF

Before undergoing IVF, women should make lifestyle changes to optimize the chances of success. For some individuals, this preparation may involve weight loss, which can take months. For other women, the focus will be on quitting vices such as smoking and drinking. All women pursuing pregnancy should take a prenatal vitamin for at least 1 month before attempting to conceive. A healthy diet full of dark leafy vegetables and protein can also set patients up for success. Some women can make such changes quickly, while other individuals will need at least a few months to fully prepare for IVF treatment. A baseline exam to check the health of the uterus and blood work for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also standard.

Birth control for pregnancy?

In some cases, the patient will be asked to start birth control before IVF. While this approach may seem counterintuitive, the point of the medication is to regulate the cycle so the healthcare team knows precisely when a period is due, and the process can begin.

Starting with LMP

The first day of the last menstrual period (LMP) is the official start of the IVF cycle. Medications called ovarian stimulants will be given to the patient to encourage the growth of multiple eggs in the ovaries. Frequent ultrasounds and bloodwork will be performed to monitor egg growth and confirm the best time for a retrieval and transfer.

Time for retrieval

Once the eggs are mature, a retrieval is scheduled. The patient is given a trigger shot, which must be administered 36 hours prior to egg retrieval. The eggs will then be combined with a sperm sample to create embryos. Many women continue the IVF process with embryo transfer a few days later, while other patients prefer to wait until the next cycle to transfer.

The positive pregnancy test

After the embryo is implanted into the uterus, the patient must wait about 2 weeks until blood work can be performed to confirm the pregnancy. A home pregnancy test may be able to detect a positive result a few days earlier, but most fertility clinics recommend waiting for the result of the official blood work before getting too excited. Once a pregnancy is confirmed, the clinic may have the woman come in for an early ultrasound, but at about 8-10 weeks, the patient will return to a regular OB/GYN who will see the rest of the pregnancy through.

Time well spent

An average cycle lasts around 4 weeks from start to finish, but some women require more preparation time before IVF to get the body ready. In other cases, women may prefer to separate the retrieval and transfer into 2 separate cycles, doubling the total timeline. Although IVF can feel overwhelming, with constant blood draws, appointments, and ultrasounds, in the grand scheme of pregnancy, treatment only lasts a few weeks. If successful, a healthy baby will be on the way in just 9 short months.

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