IVF is an effective solution for couples who are struggling to conceive. However, it can be a very unpredictable process and, while some women might get pregnant straight away with IVF, it might take several cycles for others – it’s entirely dependent on each individual as age, general health, lifestyle and other variables come into play.

How long does each cycle take?

IVF processes will be different for every clinic, but you can expect one IVF cycle to take between six and nine weeks, including the time it takes to know whether you’re pregnant or not.

What happens during each cycle?

A cycle typically follows the following steps:

Suppressing the natural menstrual cycle with fertility medication

This usually involves drugs called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone analogues to suppress or stop your cycle. You will take this daily for around two weeks by tablet or injection.

Boosting the egg supply with hormone injections

Once your cycle is suppressed, you will take a fertility hormone called a follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) via an injection for around 10-12 days.

Checking progress – ultrasound scans to monitor your ovaries

Your clinic will monitor you throughout the course of your treatment: you might have a couple of ultrasound scans and, in some cases, blood tests. You’ll then have a final hormone injection 34-38 hours before your eggs are due to be collected.

Collecting the eggs

This is a minor procedure and usually only takes around 15-20 minutes, so you’ll be in and out of the clinic on the same day.

Fertilising the eggs

The collected eggs are mixed with sperm in the laboratory; after 16-20 hours they’ll be checked to see if any have been fertilised. The fertilised eggs will continue to grow in the laboratory for up to six days.

Embryo transfer

A few days after the eggs have been collected they’ll be transferred into the womb.     

How long do I have to wait until I know whether it’s been successful?

Once the embryos have been transferred, you’ll be advised to wait around two weeks before taking a pregnancy test to see if the treatment has been successful.

What if the first cycle is unsuccessful?

Don’t panic – everyone is different and it’s not unusual for IVF to be unsuccessful within the first cycle. Be sure to talk to your clinician about the chances of success prior to your treatment, and what your options are if your first IVF cycle isn’t successful. It could be the case that you then try a different fertility treatment or proceed with another cycle.

To find out more about fertility treatments and terminology, take a look at our interactive Jargon Buster, which also comes with a free downloadable guide. 

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