IVF Procedure – An Overview of the Process
The IVF procedure and embryo transfer involves the harvesting of several oocytes (eggs) from the ovaries. This process allows the direct fertilization of the oocytes with sperm. The pre-embryo(s) thus formed can then be transferred into the womb at the right time. In the past, natural (unstimulated) IVF was practiced, but this was abandoned due to very low success rates.
The current standard of care is to stimulate the female partner with injectable medications called gonadotropins in order to induce the maturation of several oocytes. This increases the odds of success and sometimes allows for the freezing (cryopreservation in liquid Nitrogen) of remaining pre-embryos which are not used “fresh”. This gives patients a second chance at conception later when the frozen pre-embryos can be thawed and transferred into the womb at the right time.
Most cycles of IVF begin with suppression of ovarian function followed by super-ovulation. When the follicle (the fluid sac which surrounds each maturing egg) reaches a certain diameter as measured by office ultrasound, the patient is given another gonadotropin called hCG. The function of this medication is to promote final maturation of the oocytes within the measured follicles. Then, approximately 34-36 hours later, the ultrasound guided oocyte retrieval is performed in the office under anesthesia. A great majority of patients report no discomfort.
After the oocytes are incubated for a brief period of time, they are fertilized with the partner’s sperm. This occurs in the IVF and Embryo Culture Laboratory within the office. The following day, patients are contacted and informed of the status of fertilization. At that time an appointment is made for the embryo transfer. One of the key decisions is to decide how many embryos to transfer in order to increase the chance of success, but not put the patient at great risk of a multiple pregnancy. This is an individual decision which is based on the patient’s age, embryo appearance, prior history, and results of pre-implementation genetic screening of the embryos.
IVF Animated Video
PGS Procedure Video (Spanish)
- For details on how a patient goes through the IVF process
visit our IVF Patient Guide page.
- Blastocyst transfer and recent advances in the All Cryo protocols