In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is a treatment where eggs are collected from the ovary, fertilised with sperm in a fertility clinic’s laboratory and replaced back into the uterus. On average an IVF cycle will take approximately four weeks.
As your Fertility Specialist I will only recommend IVF if I am sure it will be the most successful treatment for you and only once other less invasive treatments have been considered. The IVF process can often seem quite complex and overwhelming and I will always spend time with you to ensure you have a thorough understanding of what is involved and you feel comfortable proceeding.
IVF is a complex process requiring the input of nurses and scientists. I decided to partner with Monash IVF due to the outstanding care they provide my patients and continually achieving the highest IVF pregnancy success rates in Victoria.
Below is some further information on what happens during an IVF treatment cycle:
Step 1 – Egg Collection
The starting point of the IVF process is obtaining eggs from the ovaries. This is done by administering injections of Follicle Stimulating Hormone which encourages the development of several follicles (the sacs on the ovaries that contain eggs). This process normally takes about ten days. Once enough follicles have developed, the eggs are removed from the ovaries by passing a needle into the fluid filled sacs that contain the eggs (follicles) and aspirating them out. This is a simple day procedure that is performed in theatre under a light anaesthetic.
Step 2 – Sperm Preparation
While the eggs are being collected in theatre, the semen sample is also being prepared. Once collected the semen is added to a test-tube that contains a special media which filters out sperm that have poor motility. If the sperm count is low or if the man has had a surgical sperm collection, the sperm sample will be spun to concentrate as many sperm together as possible. The collected sperm is then used to inseminate the eggs.
Step 3 – Insemination
There are two different types of insemination techniques – IVF standard insemination or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). IVF standard insemination is used for patients that have normal sperm sample and involves the scientist in the laboratory placing the eggs and the sperm into a dish and leaving them overnight so that fertilisation can occur. If there are some problems with the sperm sample, or if IVF standard insemination wasn’t successful then ICSI will be used. ICSI involves a scientist injecting a single sperm into each egg.
Step 4 – Fertilisation
The morning after the egg retrieval, the scientists check the eggs for signs of fertilisation. If fertilisation has occurred the fertilised eggs are now called ‘embryos’.
Step 5 – Embryo Culture
Embryos can be grown in the laboratory for up to six days after egg retrieval. They can be replaced back into the uterus at a variety of stages depending on what is right for the patient.
For the majority of my patients I will recommend growing embryos five days after egg retrieval, when the embryo is at the blastocyst stage. Recent research has shown that embryos that can reach the blastocyst stage of development are more likely to be chromosomally balanced compared to 2/3 day (cleavage stage) embryos. Growing embryos to the blastocyst stage enables embryos that are more developmentally competent to be selected which means they have a higher chance of resulting in a pregnancy.
Step 6 – Embryo Transfer
On the day of your embryo transfer, a scientist will assess your embryos and pick the most advanced one for transfer. The embryo will then be loaded into a very soft thin plastic tube and placed back into the uterus. This procedure is very simple and does not require an anaesthetic. The embryos will then continue to grow in the uterus until they implant.
Step 7 – Pregnancy test
Two weeks after your embryo transfer a blood test will occur to determine whether the IVF cycle resulted in a pregnancy.