Stage #1: Preparation
During the preparation stage, the female will be injected with hormones to stimulate the production of multiple eggs. During a typical menstrual cycle, the female will produce only one egg. A doctor will monitor the process, via blood tests or ultrasounds, to make sure the eggs are fully developed prior to retrieval. Eggs taken too early might not be fully developed. Eggs need to be harvested before being released from the follicles. Eggs are typically ready for retrieval 10-14 days after the start of ovulation.
Stage #2: Retrieval
During the retrieval process, the female will be given pain medication. The woman has a choice of going under full anesthesia or only mild sedation. The doctor will begin with a transvaginal ultrasound to locate the follicles. A thin hollow needle is inserted into the follicles and the eggs are retrieved. The procedure lasts between 30-60 minutes. The average amount of eggs retrieved is between 10-15. There is no stitching and no scars. The female may experience mild cramping afterward, but this is normal.
Stage #3: Transfer
As soon as the eggs are retrieved, the eggs are immediately mixed with parent or donated sperm. If using parent sperm, the sperm will need to be donated the same day the eggs are harvested. Fresh sperm is generally more viable. The fertilized eggs will be kept under observation at the clinic and monitored. Not all harvested eggs will be fertilized. After approximately 5 days the fertilized eggs hatch and hopefully become embryos. The embryos are then ready to be transferred. The doctor will use a long catheter and syringe to transfer the embryos into the uterus. On average 3 embryos are transferred at a time during the IVF process. As fertility decreases with age, older women will likely have more than 3 embryos transferred. Side effects of the transfer include mild bloating or cramping, constipation, breast tenderness, and excess vaginal discharge.
After the transfer
Approximately 2 weeks after embryo transfer, the female can take a blood or urine pregnancy test. The test measures the amount of pregnancy hormones in the body. The female placenta will produce the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone to indicate pregnancy. False negatives and false positives are possible. False negatives typically occur if the test was taken too early. False positives can occur if the female has pituitary problems. Couples can consult with the fertility specialist for definitive pregnancy test results.
The IVF process explained
The IVF process takes about 4 weeks, with the beginning 2 dedicated to egg retrieval. Once fertilized, the embryo transfer is quick and takes approximately 15 minutes. The female will know within an additional 2 weeks if IVF was a success. Couples considering IVF treatment can consult with a healthcare provider or fertility specialist to learn more.
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