What is IVF Treatment and how it helps couples with infertility issues conceive?

Many couples facing infertility issues might have heard about fertility treatments such as IUI and IVF. But many are still wondering about what is IVF treatment and how exactly this treatment can help them to get pregnant.

In Vitro Fertilization commonly known as IVF or test tube baby is a type of assisted reproductive technology that fertilises an egg with sperm outside the body in a laboratory dish. Upon fertilisation, the embryo will be transferred to the woman’s womb to help her achieve a successful pregnancy.

Getting IVF treatment can be an emotional roller coaster ride for many couples with fertility issues. Thus, the couple needs to understand the process and procedures involved in the treatment so that they can be physically and mentally prepared to undergo the treatment.

What is IVF Treatment


Getting to know the 6 Basic Steps of IVF Treatment

Step 1: Consultation and Fertility Assessment

Typically, the journey to IVF starts with consultation and fertility assessment with a fertility specialist. During the consultation, the fertility specialist will conduct a review of the couple’s medical history and ask them to undergo a physical examination and fertility assessment. The assessments may include pelvic and abdominal ultrasound scans, semen analysis, and blood tests. These assessments are done to check the overall health and find the potential cause of the couple’s inability to conceive. After reviewing the results of the medical assessment, the doctor may suggest the couple to opt for IVF treatment depending on the severity of the fertility problem. During the consultation, the couples are encouraged to ask as many relatable questions as possible to understand their condition better.

Step 2: Ovarian Stimulation

The next step in an IVF cycle is to stimulate the ovaries to allow multiple eggs to mature. This process is done by taking daily injections of hormones in certain dosages as instructed by the doctor. The hormonal injections typically start on the 2nd day of the woman’s menstrual cycle. It will be taken continuously for five days. After the 5th day, the doctor will do an ultrasound scan to check the growth of the eggs. Subsequently, the doctor will continue the injections for another five days, making a total of 10 days of injections. Then, the doctor will do another ultrasound scan to check the best time to retrieve the eggs. The retrieval process will only happen when the eggs reach 17mm and above.

Step 3: Egg Retrieval

Once the eggs are matured, the egg retrieval process will be done. The patient will be given a form of anaesthetic that helps her to relax and be pain-free during the procedure. The matured eggs are retrieved using a transvaginal ultrasound. A long thin needle is inserted through the vagina and guided to the ovaries using ultrasound imaging. Then, the eggs are removed from the ovarian follicles and placed in a dish containing a special solution. The dish is then put in an incubator before proceeding to the next steps. The egg retrieval process usually takes about 10 – 15 minutes. After the egg retrieval, some patients may experience mild cramping, bloating, bleeding, or spotting. These side effects should resolve within a few days. It is advisable to talk to the fertility doctor if the effects are severe.

Step 4: Fertilisation

On the same day of egg retrieval, the male partner will have to give a sperm sample. After getting the sample, the embryologist will proceed to choose the best egg and sperm and fertilise it in the lab. The first step of fertilization process involves insemination. It is the process of combining the egg and sperm in a petri dish which will then be placed in an incubator to form an embryo.

Step 5: Embryo transfer

This step is done once the embryo is formed and ready to be implanted in the uterus. Before the embryo transfer, the woman will be given medications to prepare the uterus lining. The embryos are then placed into a thin catheter, inserted through the cervix, and into the uterus. The embryos are gently pushed out of the catheter and into the uterus. The entire procedure is commonly done without using any sedation. After the embryo transfer, the patient will be advised to rest for a few hours and to avoid strenuous activity for the next few days.

What to do after the Embryo Transfer?

Typically, there is a two-week waiting period before taking the pregnancy test. This time can be emotionally and physically challenging for many couples. Understanding what is IVF treatment and procedures helps to keep the couple remain calm and mentally prepared to face the result. Here are a few things that the couples may be advised to do after the embryo transfer:

  • Take a good rest

Getting IVF treatment is a potentially life-changing procedure, so it is better to relax and take it easy for the next couple of days. After the transfer, the patient will be advised to rest well and reduce strenuous physical activity. They will be encouraged to priorities self-care and do enjoyable things that do not involve vigorous movements such as watching movies or reading. It is important for them to pamper themselves and keep their mind relaxed and calm during the waiting period.

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  • Continue the medications

Doctors may prescribe progesterone tablets or pessaries, or even injections. The patient should continue these medications at the appropriate time. It helps with the embryo implantation process. Although, it isn’t very pleasant to take these medications but hang in there for this may help to ensure a successful pregnancy.

  • Eat healthily

It is important to stay healthy during this time. Practice healthy eating habits and continue taking the multivitamins and folic acid prescribed by the doctor. Getting more information about what is IVF treatment, prenatal care and diet is vital to a healthy pregnancy journey and can make a big difference. 

  • Be in a Supportive Environment

It is advised for the patient to spend time with their partner and loved ones during this time. They are often advised to talk to people they trust about their feelings and pay attention to their emotional well-being. 

  • Avoid having intercourse

Refrain from having any intercourse after the embryo transfer, as this may trigger some uterine contractions and may disrupt the embryo from being implanted. Thus, as a precaution, doctors may suggest the patient to abstain from sexual intercourse at least till the end of the first trimester of pregnancy.

  • Do not take a pregnancy test right away

It is understandable that the patient may be anxious and want to know the results as soon as possible. However, it is best to wait till the doctor conducts the pregnancy test. Do not take a pregnancy test at home as the results may be false or inconclusive.

  • Do not ignore any severe symptoms.

The patient may face symptoms such as abnormal pain, abdominal bloating, nausea, and vomiting during the two-weeks waiting period. Call the doctor or go to the clinic immediately if the symptoms worsen. 

Step 6: Pregnancy test

The pregnancy test is taken two weeks after embryo transfer to find out if the woman is pregnant. If the test shows positive results, the IVF treatment has been successful and the patient will be referred to an OB-GYN for prenatal care.

Negative results indicate that the IVF treatment did not work this time. However, do not worry and lose hope. The fertility specialist will help to review the treatment and suggest additional procedures to increase the chances of successful pregnancy during the next IVF cycle.

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Importance of understanding What is IVF treatment and why some treatment fails

Understanding IVF treatment is not only about knowing the procedures or steps involved. It also includes being aware of the success rate and knowing factors that may lead to failure of the treatment. IVF journey can be a long journey. It may take weeks or even months to get pregnant through IVF. Sometimes, women may not be able to get pregnant on the first trial. Some women may feel devastated when it doesn’t work the first time and may even attempt to give up. Never lose hope for there are many cases where the patient successfully gets pregnant during the second attempt or after multiple attempts. Thus, it is necessary to always communicate with the doctor to understand the best alternative for your condition.

IVF: Reliable Option to Keep Hopes for Pregnancy Alive

It is true that getting proper insights into what is IVF treatment and the procedures involved, helps couples to prepare themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally before getting into the treatment. IVF is a highly utilized treatment option that is used worldwide to help many couples facing infertility issues to conceive. There are many developments and improvisation being done to increase the chances of IVF success. Thus, never lose hope and keep yourself updated on the developments of fertility treatments. I believe that all the hardship you went through during this journey will be worth it the moment you embrace your little bundle of joy in your arms.

You may also watch this video to learn more about IVF: In vitro fertilization (IVF)

This blog is intended for educational purposes only. All contents here is general in nature and does not take into account your personal circumstances. Please consult with your health care professional to ensure you get the right diagnosis and treatment.

(Everybody has a chance to build a family) by Dr Navdeep