Step One: Getting Started with IVF
For nearly 40 years, in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment has helped millions of couples worldwide overcome a wide variety of infertility diagnoses and enabled them to realize their dreams of becoming parents. IVF helps infertile couples become pregnant by joining the egg and sperm together in an embryology laboratory where embryos are created that can later be transferred back into the woman's uterus. While most of us have heard about IVF, many don’t know the details of the IVF process.
The IVF process can be broken down into six parts from pre-cycle appointments and preparations through the pregnancy test. Whether you're just starting to research fertility treatments or are already a patient planning to begin IVF, knowing more about the process can reduce any anxiety and help you feel more prepared for treatment.
Initial IVF Consultation & Preparing the Ovaries for Stimulation
Following the completion of the pre-cycle testing, you will meet with your physician to review the results and plan the treatment protocol. The protocol is like a blueprint that is used by you and your medical team. It is important to remember this plan provides tentative dates; frequently, treatment timelines will need to be adjusted based on how you respond to medication. You should anticipate changes and block time as needed in your work and travel schedules.
In preparation for an IVF cycle, you will undergo a mock embryo transfer. This procedure is a practice run before the actual embryo transfer and allows the doctor to test the size and placement of the catheter with your particular anatomy before the big day. During the procedure, an ultra-thin catheter is inserted into the uterus while a sonogram guides the process on a monitor. Many patients compare the mock embryo transfer to a Pap smear, as it is relatively painless and takes only a few minutes.
Many women start an IVF cycle by taking birth control pills for a set number of days, to help:
- Decrease the chances of creating cysts that could interfere with the cycle start.
- Synchronize the egg follicles so they all start at the same stage, on the date collectively chosen by the doctor and patient.
- Allow the physician and patient to control the timing of the cycle.