IVF Process in 3 Simple Steps: Stimulate, Retrieve, Transfer
An IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycle can appear very complicated. In fact, it can also be seen as three simple steps. Leaving out many of the details - the basics are stimulation, retrieval, transfer. When an IVF cycle is undertaken, there are many more details for each particular patient.
IVF Process in 3 Steps
Here are three steps in the IVF fertility treatment process broken down and explained in some detail. Call it IVF intermediate.
IVF Process Step #1 - Stimulate
First step in IVF-stimulate ovaries to produce more than one egg. Most, but not all IVF cycles include taking injectable medications (fertility medications) to increase the hormone levels, thereby producing multiple eggs. The medications continue to encourage the eggs (ovum ) to grow to the appropriate size so that they are then considered "mature". The follicles (sacs that enclose the eggs) are what are actually monitored and measured carefully, via frequent blood testing (for blood hormone levels) and vaginal ultrasounds. This may be done as frequently as every day towards the culmination of medication, but is more often every other or every two or even three days in the beginning of stimulating the ovaries.
IVF Process Step #2 - Retrieve
Retrieving the eggs is considered a minor surgical procedure and is done in an appropriate surgical suite. A light anesthesia is used and a very thin catheter is placed through the cervix and into the uterus to get to the ovaries. Each follicle in each ovary containing what looks like a mature egg is aspirated to remove the egg and the egg is then placed in a petri dish. Very occasionally a follicle will be empty and no egg will be able to be removed. After all the eggs possible are aspirated, the procedure is over and the patient awakens to a very mild recuperation.
IVF Process Step #3 - Transfer
After the eggs have been fertilized by sperm (sometimes through Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) a process of micromanipulation that is used to treat forms of male infertility and other reasons as well) in a fresh IVF cycle, the embryo or embryos will be transferred back to the uterus. (Many times, due to Pre Genetic Screening or other factors, a frozen embryo transfer (FET) is done instead of a fresh transfer.) Often the transfer of embryos as part of the IVF fertility treatment cycle will be referred to as implantation when in fact that is incorrect. This is called a transfer as opposed to implantation as that will take more time and is the part of the process where the embryo actually embeds itself into the endometrial lining of the uterus. Implantation is what we hope happens next but is not guaranteed even when a healthy appearing and dividing embryo is transferred back to the uterus.
IVF is the fertility treatment cycle with among the highest success rates, depending on each patient's individual diagnosis and on the fertility program's pregnancy rates. Looking for a program that offers support services, like mental health professionals, support groups, fertility acupuncturists, nutritionists, Fertile Yoga- can help make choosing IVF a comfortable and exciting choice.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.