What basic steps you will face during IVF.
After I had to omit my first plan – solving our problem in house, ‘in vivo’ instead of ‘in vitro’ – failed, and acknowledged that we are going to need medical help, I started to learn about IVF treatments. I think all of us have some idea about what it is. Everyone has a friend, family member, or a colleague who has some experience in this field (but it’s true, it isn’t something we would discuss over a beer). These days it’s also common to hear about celebrities undergoing fertility treatments as well. Meaning: IVF became an accepted way of making a baby. Even though everyone prefers to have a child in the normal (and much more fun) way, unfortunately it’s not as easy for everyone.
"Everyone has a friend, family member, or a colleague who has some experience in this field (but it’s true, it isn’t something we would discuss over a beer). "
So, here are the basics which (even) a man should know about fertility & IVF.
Hopefully everyone knows how to conceive naturally. In the middle of the woman’s menstruation cycle, her ovary releases an egg. The egg (also called ovum) starts to travel through the fallopian tube in the direction of the womb. During this trip the egg meets the sperm, and if they meet at the right time and like each other, the magic might happen. The fertilized egg continues its journey to the womb, where it develops into an embryo and is going to implant into the uterus lining. BOOM! Simple as 1x1.
But ‘in vitro’ it’s not as simple:
The IVF treatment is going to start the 2nd day of your partner’s period, and actually everything will be scheduled around her menstrual cycle.
In a normal month (without IVF) a woman releases only 1 egg per cycle. In IVF we need more eggs. This is possible with hormone stimulation, that’s why your partner is going to need the hormone injections. Be very proud of her, because we all know how a man can react to pain.
The stimulation process is controlled by the doctor regularly (it’s not lucky to have under- or overstimulation either). The doctor checks on the follicles with an ultrasound test. The stimulation phase takes approximately 10-12 days, depending on how her body reacts to the hormones.
When the follicles look matured enough, your partner has to go under a minor surgery. It’s called egg retrieval, or egg collection. The doctor is going to poke all the follicles and collect the eggs from all of them. This is a very low risk surgery, so nothing to worry about, but again: it won’t be performed on you, so be supportive!
At the same time of the egg collection, your major, and only one job is due as well: sperm collection.
From here, there are two different ways to go:
The embryologist will let some of the sperms meet the eggs freely. This is approximately the same as it would happen ‘in vivo’. Or
The embryologist will choose the best-looking sperm and help him enter the egg. It usually happens if there are not too many eggs or sperms available.
After this, the lab keeps the fertilized eggs in an incubator for 3-5 days, depending on their development. Unfortunately, not all embryos are going to make it until Day5. It’s normal.
Depending on the embryo-development, your doctor is going to decide the best time for embryo transfer. You are also going to have a consultation about the optimal number of transferred embryos. This is a quick and absolutely painless procedure. The doctor is going to put back the embryo(s) into your partner’s womb.
If you are lucky to have more embryos than needed for the transfer, the remaining quantity can be frozen, and used later. It's great news, because if you have to go for more IVF cycles, your partner doesn’t have to do hormone stimulation and egg retrieval again.
After the transfer you have to wait approximately two weeks to know if you have succeeded.
This is the IVF process in a nutshell, but I somehow have the feeling that it won’t be as simple as it sounds, but we will see.