IVF treatment may differ slightly depending on which clinic you use. However, the basics remain the same and so this is what you should expect if you go for IVF treatment in the UK.
One of the first things that will happen is that the doctor will sit you down and explain to you all about the procedure and what you can expect. Once you have all that information then treatment can begin.
Stopping your natural periods
You will be given medication which will stop your natural periods. This is to make sure you don’t ovulate naturally and produce eggs that can’t be retrieved because the treatment hasn’t yet begun. It also makes sure that your ovaries are in optimum condition for treatment. For example, hormone levels need to be low and the lining of the womb should be thin.
Stimulating egg production
The next step is to begin taking FSH, which stands for follicle stimulating hormone. This is a fertility hormone which you inject into yourself for a period of ten to twelve days. The hormone is used because it increases the number of eggs you will produce to allow more than one egg to be collected. Producing more than one egg means there is a greater choice of embryos for use during the treatment.
At this time, you will be closely monitored by the doctor at the clinic, who will check on your estrogen levels and the number of eggs you are producing. You may have to have blood tests and you will have vaginal ultrasound scans.
Collecting the eggs
The day before the eggs are collected, you will be given a last hormone injection which helps your eggs mature.
The day of the collection you will either be sedated, or have a full anaesthetic and then a needle will be placed into each ovary, via your vagina in order to collect the eggs. The procedure should only take around 20 minutes and afterwards you may get some light bleeding or feel cramps.
Fertilising the eggs
Once all the eggs have been collected, your partner or donor sperm is added and they are then left to fertilise for around 16 to 20 hours. The eggs that fertilise begin to grow, but they stay in the laboratory for around six more days. Then the best eggs are chosen and one or two will be transferred back into your womb. Meanwhile you will be given a gel, pessary or injection of a hormone to prepare the lining of the womb to receive the eggs.
Placing the embryos into the vagina is done with a catheter. The number of eggs that are transferred will normally depend on your age. For example, if you are older than 40 then two embryos will be transferred. Woman under 37 and between the ages of 37 and 39 should only have a single embryo during the first cycle. Two embryos can be transferred at the third cycle, or the second if the egg quality isn’t first class. The embryos that are left can be frozen in case further IVF treatment is required in the future, either because of a failed attempt or because a sibling is wanted.
You won’t be able to do a pregnancy test until after two weeks from the embryo implantation. You can do the test from home, using a home pregnancy kit, or you might be asked to attend the clinic so that they can test you there. If you do find out that you’re pregnant, you’ll then be offered anti-natal care. If the IVF has failed, you can continue with another cycle. You may prefer to give your body a chance to recover before you take this step, but speak to your doctor who will advise you.