When you decide to undergo IVF, there's a lot of information to absorb and the process is often both physically and emotionally challenging. The direct role played by a male partner in the IVF process is relatively small. Once they've provided a sperm sample, their role shifts to one of support. This is still an important role, but the process is more intense and demanding for women.
There are several steps that women need to complete during IVF, and being clear about what's involved in each step can help you feel a little more in control and ready as you go through the process. Here is the IVF process explained.
Suppress Your Menstrual Cycle
The first step of the IVF process for women may feel a little confusing. You need a healthy menstrual cycle to conceive, yet in IVF the first step is to suppress your natural menstrual cycle. However, there is a good reason for doing this. Since timing is very important during IVF, the doctor will suppress your natural cycle to control when you ovulate. This step ensures there's no risk of ovulation being missed and the IVF process having to be restarted. For this stage, you will use a nasal spray or daily intramuscular injection that contains hormones to suppress your cycle.
Boos Egg Production
The next step in the process is to boost your egg production. This gives your doctor more choice when collecting the eggs at a later stage, and when more eggs are available, the chance of an embryo developing at the fertilisation stages increases. To boost egg production you will give yourself injections containing a fertility stimulating hormone every day for a week or two.
Retrieve the Eggs
Once your egg production has been boosted, your doctor will collect the eggs from your ovaries using a guided needle. Ultrasound imaging is used during this procedure to allow your doctor to guide the needle accurately. You may feel some discomfort during egg retrieval, but it shouldn't be painful.
Fertilise the Egg
Once your eggs have been retrieved they are combined with the sperm sample provided by your partner and left for a day to allow fertilisation to occur. Any eggs that are fertilised are allowed to grow in the lab for a few days. Your doctor will then select the highest quality fertilised egg, known as an embryo, and this will be transferred into your uterus.
Transfer the Embryo to the Uterus
To transfer the embryo to your uterus, your doctor will insert a thin tube into your vagina. The embryo is passed through the tube with the hopes it will implant in the lining of the uterus and continue to grow and develop. A couple of weeks after the embryo transfer you will have a blood test to determine whether you are pregnant.
IVF can be an emotional rollercoaster and involves lots of waiting for the next step, which can leave you feeling anxious. You may find it beneficial to speak to a counsellor when going through IVF, and your doctor can recommend counsellors with experience of working with women undergoing fertility treatment.