There are five steps involved in IVF:
- Egg retrieval
- Embryo culture
A woman normally produces one egg during each menstrual cycle. However, IVF requires multiple eggs. Using multiple eggs increases the chances of developing a viable embryo. You’ll receive fertility drugs to increase the number of eggs your body produces. During this time, your doctor will perform regular blood tests and ultrasounds to monitor the production of eggs and to let your doctor know when to retrieve them.
Egg retrieval is known as follicular aspiration. It’s a surgical procedure performed with anesthesia. Your doctor will use an ultrasound wand to guide a needle through your vagina, into your ovary, and into an egg-containing follicle. The needle will suction eggs and fluid out of each follicle.
The male partner will now need to give a semen sample. A technician will mix the sperm with the eggs in a petri dish. If that doesn’t produce embryos, your doctor may decide to use ICSI.
Your doctor will monitor the fertilized eggs to ensure that they’re dividing and developing. The embryos may undergo testing for genetic conditions at this time.
When the embryos are big enough, they can be implanted. This normally occurs three to five days after fertilization. Implantation involves inserting a thin tube called a catheter inserted into your vagina, past your cervix, and into your uterus. Your doctor then releases the embryo into your uterus.
Pregnancy occurs when the embryo implants itself in the uterine wall. This can take 6 to 10 days. A blood test will determine if you’re pregnant.
Side effects of IVF
Like all medications and medical procedures, IVF has some risks and possible side effects. These include:
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
- Bruising from shots
- Allergic reaction to medicines
IVF can also be difficult emotionally, both for the person having the procedures and for their partner and/or family. Many people doing IVF treatments struggle with depression and anxiety throughout the process.
Talking with people who’ve been through fertility struggles and IVF can be really helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed or discouraged. Online and in-person communities are also good places to meet people who understand what you’re going through and can offer advice and support. Counselors and therapists can also be sources of comfort.