Our fertility specialists explain the IVF process that will help you bring home a baby
When patients pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF), they embark on a journey that will help bring them one step closer to their dream of parenthood. Fertility Specialists of Texas wants our patients to understand what to expect from this fertility treatment. As a result, the team at our Dallas-Fort Worth infertility clinic has created an in-depth guide to the IVF process.
An IVF cycle involves multiple steps, including preparation for treatment, ovulation induction, egg retrieval, fertilization and embryo transfer. Each of these in vitro fertilization steps takes place at a specific time during a six-week period.
Taking the time to prepare for an IVF cycle is critical
Before starting the IVF process, our doctors will likely prescribe birth control pills starting on the third day of a patient’s cycle. It might seem counterintuitive to give a patient birth control pills when she is trying to conceive. However, our team has two good reasons for doing it.
- Taking birth control pills before an ovarian stimulation cycle may help the ovaries respond better to the stimulation medications.
- Birth control pills allow our team to schedule a patient’s cycle for when it is most convenient for her.
At the time of the patient’s expected period, our team will perform bloodwork to check her estradiol levels. We will also perform a baseline ultrasound to examine her ovaries.
Ovarian stimulation and monitoring are the next steps in the IVF process
If the baseline ultrasound shows no significant ovarian cysts, our doctors will start ovarian stimulation after the patient’s menstrual period begins. Ovarian stimulation medications develop and mature multiple egg-containing follicles by directly stimulating the ovaries.
- Gonal-F and Follistim are the brand names for gonadotropins that only contain follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
- Repronex and Menopur are the brand names for human menopausal gonadotropins. These contain both FSH and LH (luteinizing hormone).
Many IVF protocols use a combination of both medication types. The patient will take these medications by injection each day for eight to 12 days.
While the woman is taking these medications, our team will monitor her using transvaginal ultrasounds and bloodwork. The ultrasound monitors the growth and development of the follicles. The bloodwork measures the patient’s estradiol levels. This information helps us determine whether the patient is taking the proper dosage of medication.
The egg retrieval procedure comes after giving a “trigger” shot
The next step in the IVF process is giving the patient an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) or Lupron (leuprolide). These drugs stimulate the final maturation of the eggs. The patient will come to our Dallas-Fort Worth infertility clinic for an egg retrieval procedure 36 hours after the trigger shot.
Before the retrieval, the anesthesiologist gives the patient IV medications to keep her comfortable. One of our fertility doctors will perform the egg retrieval using ultrasound guidance. The doctor will pass the tip of a thin needle through the top of the vagina. Then, using light suction, the doctor will aspirate the follicular fluid and eggs from the follicles.
Our IVF laboratory team fertilizes the eggs before the embryo transfer
After the egg retrieval, the embryologists in our IVF lab will combine the eggs with washed and prepared sperm from the patient’s partner or a donor. Fertilization can occur by either placing sperm with an egg in a petri dish or using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Once the eggs have been fertilized, our lab team places them in an incubator overnight.
If performing a fresh transfer, the embryo transfer step of the IVF process occurs three or five days after the egg retrieval. With a frozen transfer, the transfer can occur after thawing the embryos and preparing the patient’s uterus by having her take medications.
On the day of the transfer, the fertility doctor will place a speculum in the vagina. The embryologist will load the embryo into a small catheter. The doctor then gently places the catheter through the vagina and into the uterus. After placing the embryo in the uterine cavity, the doctor carefully removes the catheter.
The follow-up care is just as important as the other steps of IVF
To support the uterine lining, the patient will start progesterone injections on the evening before the egg retrieval. She will continue to take them daily until her serum pregnancy test or until our team tells her to stop. If the patient becomes pregnant, she will take progesterone for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
If you would like to learn more about the IVF process or schedule an appointment to start an IVF cycle for yourself, we invite you to contact us. Our Dallas-Fort Worth infertility clinic is here to help you move through each of the in vitro fertilization steps.