Light is finally being shed on the once “hush-hush” infertility conversation, but the IVF process is still relatively unknown.

Not so long ago, In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), seemed like something out of a sci-fi novel, coining the term, “test tube baby”. Today, advances in science and technology have long since turned the dream of starting a family into a reality for millions of couples and single parents. To better understand how IVF works we’ve broken it down into five easy steps.

1. Stimulation

After the initial consultation with a physician, which includes a standard STD test, sperm sample, and treatment plan, the woman is given a daily dosage of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This stimulates the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. During a woman’s natural cycle, several eggs develop in the ovaries but only one will reach maturity. Stimulation hormones are used so that several eggs in the ovary develop and mature. (7-10 days)

2. Egg Retrieval

Approximately one week after the first dose of hormone stimulation, a final dose of HCG is given to help promote egg maturity. Once the eggs are sufficiently matured, ovulation is induced and the egg retrieval process is safe to begin. This is generally done under general anesthesia and anywhere from 5-15 eggs may be removed. A fresh sperm sample may also collected from the male it this time. (approx. 30 minutes)

To complete one full IVF cycle it usually takes patients between 15-21 days. If travelling for IVF, patients may consider dividing their treatment into two trips. 

3. Fertilisation In Vitro

After the retrieval, the eggs are immediately taken to a lab where they are introduced to the sperm. Only some will become fertilized, and they will then be left to develop for 1 – 5 days. While waiting, the woman is typically given a special medication (progesterone) to help thicken the lining of the uterus and prepare for the embryo transfer. This is intended to increase chances of an embryo adhering to the uterine wall and developing naturally.(1-5 days)

Are you and your partner thinking about IVF? Check out the full IVF Treatment Guide

4. Embryo Transfer

At last, the embryos are ready to be transferred. It is not uncommon that two embryos be transferred in order to increase the success rate- however this is at the patient and physician’s discretion. Any fertilized embryos that are not used during the transfer can be cryopreserved and used for further transfers (cryo-embryo transfers). An hour after the embryo transfer is complete, the process is complete and the woman may go home. (5-10 minutes) 

5. Pregnancy Test

Two weeks after the embryo transfer, the woman is required to take a pregnancy test. This will reveal if the IVF cycle was successful or not. It is not uncommon that couples go through several cycles of IVF before successfully getting pregnant. Patients are usually asked to wait one or two complete menstrual cycles before beginning another IVF cycle.

Travelling For IVF

As the demand for IVF continues to grow, many patients are looking abroad to schedule their treatments- keeping quality high and costs down. Central Europe, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Greece have become popular destinations for hopeful couples. If you are thinking about travelling abroad for IVF, it is important to consider the time frame you are working in. If manageable, patients will sometimes split their cycle into two trips. For those travelling further distances, one trip is usually preferred. 

Trip 1: (1-2 Days)

With the help of a medical travel platform, patients are easily put in contact with their clinic and physician, and can go ahead and schedule the initial consultation. During this consultation routine testing, possible sperm sample and treatment plans are completed and the hormone stimulation medication is administered. After this the patient may stay or go home. 

Trip 2: (about 5-6 days) 

After taking the stimulation medication for 7-10 days, the patient will return and prepare for the rest of the cycle. This includes the egg retrieval, sperm sample, fertilisation period and embryo transfer. After the transfer is complete the patient is free to leave. The two week pregnancy test may be taken at home. 

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