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IVF Step by Step

Breaking Down the Basics: Understanding IVF Step by Step

Breaking Down the Basics: Understanding IVF Step by Step

Though in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a complex procedure, it increasingly becoming a common fertility treatment. If you are, as a couple, considering this option to become parents, it is important to understand the steps involved as it helps to demystify the process and make an informed decision. Let’s now delve into the journey of IVF and understand each step of the process.

What is the first step of IVF?

Stimulation of the ovaries is the first step in an IVF cycle. It involves your doctor prescribing fertility medications so that the ovaries can be stimulated to produce multiple eggs. In the normal course, your ovaries produce one egg during the monthly cycle. Your IVF specialist will prescribe medication for a period of 8 to 14 days to create the right atmosphere so that the ovarian follicles generate more eggs. The doctor treating you will then monitor your progress through blood tests and transvaginal ultrasound scans. During this phase, it is crucial to assess your response to the medications as the goal is to retrieve multiple mature eggs to increase the chances of successful fertilization.

How are the eggs retrieved?

A trigger injection is given to initiate ovulation, the discharge of eggs during the menstruation cycle, at the appropriate time by your fertility specialist. Typically, your fertility doctor will retrieve the eggs before ovulation once he/she deems that the eggs are mature. The egg retrieval involves a minor surgical procedure and is done under sedation (local anesthesia) in order to minimize discomfort. A thin needle is guided through the vaginal wall into the ovaries, and the eggs are aspirated from the follicles. Typically, the entire procedure will be completed in about 20 to 30 minutes. The number of eggs retrieved often differs from one patient to another. After the process, it takes just about half an hour for you to recover completely.

What happens after egg retrieval?

The retrieved eggs are kept in a special media in an incubator until they start to grow nicely and are ready for insemination. Then they are combined with sperm in a laboratory dish for fertilization. Unfortunately, all eggs will not fertilize successfully and become embryos. There are several reasons for this. However, the main reasons are eggs not becoming mature and sperm being weak. In certain specific cases, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) will have to be used, wherein a single sperm is directly injected into an egg for facilitating fertilization. During this stage, your doctor may prescribe hormone medications to prepare the uterus lining to receive the embryo. The embryos are then monitored for development over the next few days.

What is embryo culture?

The fertilized eggs, zygotes or embryos, are continued to be kept in the culture in a specialized incubator so that they can evolve and progress to the blastocyst stage. The incubator mimics the conditions of the human body as it is maintained under ideal temperature as well as gas conditions that promote embryonic growth. Embryo culture typically lasts for 3-5 days, during which time they are monitored for signs of healthy development. The goal is to select the best-quality embryos for transfer to your uterus. When the eggs are kept in the incubator, it is important to analyze their condition and quality determined.

How is embryo transfer done?

Embryo transfer is a relatively simple procedure that is usually performed 3-5 days after fertilization. A thin catheter containing the selected embryos is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. The embryos are then gently released, and the catheter is removed. The number of embryos transferred is carefully considered to maximize the chances of pregnancy while minimizing the risk of multiple gestations.

What is the role of progesterone in IVF?

After embryo transfer, progesterone supplements are often prescribed to support the uterine lining and improve the chances of embryo implantation. Progesterone can be administered in various forms, including injections, vaginal suppositories, or gel.

How is pregnancy confirmed after IVF?

In about two weeks after the transfer of the embryo, a pregnancy test will be performed to understand if the procedure was effective. This test measures the level of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the blood. If hCG is detected, it indicates that implantation has occurred, and pregnancy has begun.

In vitro fertilization is a remarkable medical advancement that gives hope to many struggling with infertility. Understanding its step-by-step process can alleviate anxiety and make the journey more manageable. If you or someone you know is considering IVF, consult a fertility specialist to learn more about this process and its potential outcomes. Dr. Swarna, an accomplished IVF expert at Aanvi Fertility and Women’s Centre, is a qualified and experienced gynaecologist as well as an ultrasound and foetal medicine specialist. She treats all kinds of patients in different phases of pregnancies providing the best of infertility vigilance and maternal care.

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