The first in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure was successfully performed over four decades ago in 1978, and since then IVF has continued to grow in popularity. Today, millions of couples have chosen this form of assisted reproductive technology to help them conceive. Chances are, you know someone who has undergone IVF. If you’re considering IVF for yourself, it’s normal to have some questions. In this helpful guide, we’re covering the ins and outs of IVF to help you prepare for the journey ahead.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a method of assisted reproductive technology in which eggs and sperm are combined and fertilized outside the body. The fertilized eggs are incubated for several days to grow to the embryo stage and then placed into the uterus. The goal is that this embryo will implant into the uterine lining and develop into a healthy baby. Alternatively, couples may also choose to freeze their embryo for use in the future. The procedure can be done using a woman’s own eggs and partner’s sperm, or donor eggs or sperm. Couples may also choose a gestational carrier to carry the pregnancy.
While there are a variety of reasons to consider IVF, some of the most common include:
Before you begin the stimulation cycle, you will undergo various tests to ensure you are healthy for pregnancy. This includes an ultrasound, bloodwork, and screening tests such as a semen analysis, blood tests to measure your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol, and Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) levels, and infectious disease screening.
You will also work with your provider beforehand to understand how to administer the IVF medications, fill out consent forms, and review the procedure fees. From there, it is a four-step process.
In general, a woman 35 years or older may consult a fertility specialist and consider IVF after 6 months of trying to conceive. A woman under 35 years old may consult with a fertility specialist and consider IVF after 1 year of trying to conceive. Not every case is the same, so it’s important to discuss your options with your provider.
The entire IVF process from start to finish can last anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks from time of consultation through to embryo transfer. Of course, this can vary from patient to patient.
Because of the anesthesia used during the egg retrieval process, you should not feel any pain during the procedure. However, due to the hormonal changes your body is experiencing, it is possible to experience other side effects during the IVF process. The most common of these is abdominal cramping, similar to what you may experience with your period. You provider can recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever to help with the discomfort. If you experience severe pain, or symptoms like trouble urinating, shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting it’s important to contact your provider.
The IVF process can be an emotional one so it’s important to have a strong support system with your care center, family, and friends. Many women also find it helpful to join an IVF support group where they can seek comfort from others who have a shared experience.
Every woman is different, but many find they can continue to work throughout the IVF process. Of course, you may need to manage your schedule to accommodate your appointments. You will need to take the day off for the scheduled egg retrieval because of the anesthesia given. It is suggested that you ‘take it easy’ the day of the embryo transfer. What you choose to do is ultimately up to you and your provider. While you do not have to disclose your personal health to your employer, some employers may offer time off for infertility treatment. Overall, it’s important to care for yourself and take the time you need for both your physical and mental health.
IVF remains the most successful form of assisted reproductive technology and has helped millions of couples pursue their dreams of parenthood.
Our partners at South Jersey Fertility Center and Fertility Institute of NJ & NY in New Jersey, Sincera Reproductive Medicine in Pennsylvania, and Midwest Fertility in Indiana are experts in the IVF process and can help to guide you throughout your journey.