In vitro fertilisation or “IVF” is used to treat fertility problems. It involves collecting mature eggs from the ovaries, fertilising them with sperm in a laboratory and then implanting an embryo back into the uterus of a woman to hopefully produce a successful pregnancy. The main steps are as follows:
Ovulation induction involves the use of medications to stimulate ovulation. The process usually takes approximately two weeks of treatment and involves daily injections of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). These are administered to encourage the maturation of follicles within the ovaries as well as the release of egg cells.
The process is monitored with ultrasound and blood tests to control the size and quantity of follicles. To assist with the final maturation of the egg and the loosening of the egg from the follicle wall, an injection of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) is administered.
This takes place around 36 hours after hCG is injected and is performed by an experienced doctor under light anaesthetic. A needle is inserted into the follicles to harvest the eggs yielding approximately 5-10 eggs, although this can vary.
Insemination / Fertilisation
Good quality, motile sperm are selected to fertilise the egg using either standard IVF examination or ICSI. The fertilised egg is then placed in an incubator for 12-24 hours and monitored for signs of fertilisation.
Embryos are allowed to develop for 5 – 6 days (the extended blastocyst stage) to increase their chance of implantation.
The best quality embryo is transferred into the uterus. This is done using a transfer catheter (a thin, long plastic tube), which is inserted through the cervix into the uterus. The procedure is simple, much like a pap smear, and does not require an anaesthetic. Once the procedure is complete, other good quality embryos can be frozen for use in later cycles of IVF.
A blood test is performed approximately 11 days after embryo transfer has occurred, to determine whether you are pregnant.