If you’re beginning your journey through IVF treatment, you might be wondering what’s in store and how long it will be before you know whether the process has been successful or not.
The length of time it takes to complete a single cycle of IVF can differ slightly from clinic to clinic however, between 6 and 9 weeks is the average length of time between your initial consultation and your final pregnancy test.
In this blog we will be outlining the process from start to finish so that you have a greater understanding of the journey.
The process described below is a ‘long protocol’ and may differ for you as an individual as we tailor your treatment to ensure the best outcome for your individual circumstances.
Day 1 – Consultation and initial scan
After visiting your GP and being referred to a fertility clinic for treatment, the first thing that will need to be done is to assess your fertility status. While IVF is the most common fertility treatment, for some people less intensive or more intensive, treatments will be needed. Your consultant will use this appointment time to evaluate which treatment is best suited to you.
Day 3 – Consent appointment and drug information
After agreeing with your consultant that IVF is the best treatment for you, your journey will begin. On your second visit to the clinic, you will be asked to complete all of the legal consent documentation mandated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). You will also be given a prescription for the medicines that will initiate your treatment cycle and will be shown how to administer the medication at home.
Day 3 to Day 15 – Suppression drug course (this may be a much shorter process for many of you)
For around two weeks, you will be asked to administer drugs known as Hormone Analogues. These drugs will slow or even stop your natural menstrual cycle. This is done so that your own cycle does not interfere with the controlled cycle that will be induced during the IVF process. After your menstrual cycle has been suppressed, you will enter a temporary state of menopause.
Day 16 to Day 27 – Hormone boosting or ‘stimulation’ course
The next step is to boost the number of follicles your ovaries develop to maximise the chances of your IVF treatment being successful. This is done via the use of stimulation drugs. These stimulation drugs will increase the growth of the follicles within your ovaries. These follicles contain your eggs, and we hope to improve your chance of success by allowing 8-15 good quality follicles to develop. Improved follicle development means more good quality eggs; more good quality eggs mean a greater chance of a successful pregnancy.
Day 30 – Trigger
After hormone stimulation your ovaries should contain multiple follicles and egg collection can then be scheduled. In a natural menstrual cycle your body would release hormones that would tell your ovaries to release the eggs down the fallopian tubes and into the uterus. Due to the use of suppressant drugs earlier on in your IVF cycle, this action can be controlled and timed meaning that egg collection can happen whenever is best for the clinic and the patient. When you and your consultant have agreed on a time for egg collection, a hormone called hCG will be injected 36 hours beforehand. This sends signals to the ovaries to mature the eggs ready for release and fertilisation. The clinic will carefully time the egg collection to ensure the eggs are collected into the laboratory before being released by your ovaries.
Day 32 – Egg Collection
On the day of egg collection you will be asked to fast from midnight of the evening before your appointment. You will be placed under a very mild sedation and your eggs will be collected using an ultrasound guided needle. The eggs are incubated in the laboratory ready for insemination.
Afterwards you will be given time to recover from the anaesthetic and allowed to return home later that day.
Day 32 to Day 37 – Fertilisation and embryo development
Four hours after your egg collection the eggs will be inseminated with the sperm of your partner or a donor. The eggs are incubated overnight and checked by the embryologists for signs of fertilisation the following morning.
Your fertilised eggs will now be known as ‘embryos’.
Your embryos will be left in the laboratory for up to 6 days after the day of egg collection to allow the embryos to develop. This helps the embryologists identify how many embryos have the potential to keep developing and hopefully implant and achieve a pregnancy. Not all embryos will develop normally or go on to create a pregnancy, but this time allows the embryologists to identify those embryos that will give you the best chance of pregnancy.
This process all takes place in our laboratories and is carried out by our team of embryologists. For more information on what happens during fertilisation and embryo development, follow this link to read our blog.
Day 38 – Embryo Transfer
After the development of your embryo(s) for up to 5 days, we will be ready to place an embryo into your uterus in the hope that implantation will follow and lead to the development of a baby. The embryologist will talk to you about the embryo that has been selected for ‘transfer’ and also about any other embryos you have.
You will attend the clinic for a short stay – normally just a couple of hours. During this time one of our nurse specialists will transfer the embryo into the uterus. This process does not require any sedation and is a relatively straightforward procedure, similar to receiving a normal smear examination.
Day 45 – Pregnancy Test
After giving the embryo time to attach to the wall of the uterus (implant) and hopefully develop, you will be asked to carry out a pregnancy test at home. At this point you will know whether the cycle has been a success or not and whether you have become pregnant.
Day 60 – Pregnancy Scan
If your pregnancy test was positive you will be asked to wait for a 2 week period to allow the embryo time to develop into a foetus. You will then attend a pregnancy scan to assess the health of the pregnancy.