IVF treatment typically takes about 6-8 weeks from the first appointment and includes the following stages:
- Suppressing the woman’s natural cycle – the menstrual cycle is suppressed with medication; this is called ‘down regulation’.
- Boosting egg production – different medication is then used to encourage the ovaries to produce more eggs than usual.
- Monitoring the woman’s progress – the eggs grow in follicles in the ovaries, and an ultrasound scan is used to check their development. When they are ready the release of the eggs is triggered.
- Egg collection – a needle is inserted into the ovaries, via the vagina, to remove the eggs.
- Fertilising the eggs – sperm is mixed with the eggs to fertilise them. The resulting embryos develop for up to five days (until ‘blastocyst’ stage) in an incubator.
- Embryo transfer – one or two embryos are placed into the womb
After embryo transfer is a two-week wait, before a home pregnancy test is used to see if the treatment has worked. If this is positive it is then verified at the clinic with an early pregnancy scan.
Embryos that are created during a fresh treatment cycle, but not transferred during that treatment, can be frozen and stored for further treatment or for a sibling at a later date.
Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) does not require stages 1-5; therefore FET requires less medication and is less invasive.