IVF literally means that fertilisation of the woman’s egg happens outside the human body, as compared to natural conception where the sperm fertilises the eggs in a woman’s womb.
Since the sperm and egg meet outside the body, the IVF process will consist of steps taken to retrieve the egg from the woman and the sperm from the man before the sperm and egg meet in a test-tube for fertilisation to happen. Here’s what a couple goes through during the IVF process:
Step 1: Egg Stimulation
The ovaries are first stimulated using an injection with hormones to produce many eggs at once. The injections can be administered by the patient at home, and starts from Day 2 of the menstrual cycle. It takes 10-12 days from the first injection to the time the eggs are retrieved.
Step 2: Assess Egg Maturation
On Day 8/9 of the cycle, the gynaecologist then performs a simple ultrasound scan to check on the maturity of the stimulated eggs.
Step 3: Egg Retrieval
Once a mature egg is observed, it will be extracted from the woman in a day surgery procedure within the IVF centre. This procedure is done under anaesthesia. From the first injection to the retrieval of eggs, the duration is approximately between 10- 12 days.
Step 4: Fertilisation with Sperm
The collected eggs and sperms are fertilised in an IVF laboratory by an embryologist. Eggs that have been successfully fertilised are known as embryos. These embryos are then grown for 5 days, during which the abnormal or unhealthy ones are weeded out. An embryoscope may be used to create a time-lapse video over these 5 days to monitor the development of the embryos in the IVF laboratory.
Step 5: Freezing of Embryos
Embryos that are determined to be optimal are then frozen, before being transferred back into the woman’s womb 1-2 months later. The woman will need to take hormone tablets daily before the transfer is performed.
Step 6: Transfer of Embryos
The embryo will be transferred back into the woman’s womb in a simple procedure that is done in the IVF centre. This transfer process will take around 20-30 min and does not require anaesthesia.
Step 7: Check if IVF is Successful
2 weeks after the transfer of the embryo into the woman’s womb, a pregnancy test will be done to check if the woman has successfully conceived.