IVF: Know The Procedure, Preparation, Fertilization, & Results


In vitro fertilization, often known as IVF, is a complex collection of procedures intended to improve fertility, avoid genetic problems, and facilitate child conception.

IVF involves taking mature eggs out of the ovaries and fertilizing them with sperm in a lab. After that, the fertilized egg (or eggs) is/are moved to the uterus. IVF rounds take about three weeks to finish.

 When these processes are divided into separate sections, the process might sometimes take longer.

The most successful type of assisted reproductive technology is IVF. The couple's own sperm and eggs are used in the procedure, making it conceivable. During IVF, eggs, sperm, or embryos from known or unidentified donors may also be utilized. A gestational carrier is a person who is carrying an unborn child.

The uterus may receive an embryo that has been implanted.

Your age and the underlying cause of your infertility are only two of the many factors that might affect IVF success rates. IVF can also be costly, intrusive, and time-consuming. If more than one embryo is inserted into the uterus during IVF, it may result in a pregnancy with several fetuses (multiple pregnancies).

Your doctor can explain IVF's operation, possible hazards, and suitability for you as an infertility treatment option.

Reasons for IVF

In vitro fertilization is used to treat infertility or genetic conditions (IVF). Before starting IVF, you and your spouse may be able to try less intrusive treatments such as fertility drugs to increase egg production or intrauterine insemination (IUI), in which sperm is directly injected into the uterus just before ovulation.

IVF is occasionally recommended as the first line of therapy for infertility in women over the age of 40. IVF could still be an option if you have particular medical conditions. For example, IVF could be an option if you or your partner have:

Blockage or injury to the fallopian tube. A damaged or blocked fallopian tube makes it challenging to fertilize an egg or move an embryo.

Ovarian dysfunction. Fewer eggs are accessible for fertilization if ovulation is sporadic or nonexistent.

Endometriosis. When tissue that resembles the uterine lining implants and expands outside of the uterus, endometriosis forms, usually compromising the function of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.

Uterine tumors. In the uterus, fibroids are benign tumors. They are typical for women in their 30s and 40s. The correct implantation of the fertilized egg may be hampered by fibroids.

Before tubal removal or sterilization. To permanently terminate the pregnancy, a technique called tubal ligation involves cutting or blocking the fallopian tubes. If you wish to become pregnant after having your tubes shut, IVF can be a better alternative than tubal ligation reversal surgery.

Reduced sperm count or sperm quality.

It may be challenging for sperm to fertilize an egg if they are not focused, have poor motility, or are aberrant in size or form. If abnormalities in the semen are found, a visit with an infertility specialist may be necessary to establish whether there are any curable disorders or underlying medical conditions.

Unaccounted-for infertility. Unexplained infertility refers to the lack of a cause despite testing for common causes.

A genetic condition. If you or your spouse are at risk of passing on a genetic disease to your child, you may be qualified for preimplantation genetic testing, an IVF procedure. The eggs are examined for certain genetic problems after being harvested and fertilized, albeit not all genetic disorders may be identified.

Fertility preservation despite cancer or other disorders. If you are going to start receiving cancer treatment that can compromise your fertility, such as radiation or chemotherapy, IVF for fertility preservation may be a possibility. Women's ovaries can be removed to get eggs, which can then be stored unfertilized for future use. Alternatively, the eggs may be fertilized, and the resulting embryos could be stored for later use.

If a woman's uterus is not functioning or pregnancy offers a major health risk, she may select IVF with a donor pregnancy (gestational carrier). In this instance, the sperm and the woman's eggs are fertilized, but the resultant embryos are then implanted in the uterus of the gestational carrier.

Risk Factors

IVF risks include:

Several births. Your risk of having multiple children increases if you have IVF and have more than one embryo placed into your uterus. Compared to pregnancies with a single fetus, pregnancies with multiple fetuses have a greater risk of early labor and low birth weight.

Low birth weight and preterm delivery. According to research, there is a tiny chance that a baby produced via IVF would be premature or have a low birth weight.

The syndrome of ovarian hyperstimulation. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), an injectable reproductive drug, can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which makes your ovaries unpleasant and bloated.

The normal duration of symptoms, which include minor stomach discomfort, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, is one week. However, if you get pregnant, your signs and symptoms may continue for several weeks. Rarely, the symptoms of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome might worsen, causing rapid weight gain and shortness of breath.

Miscarriage. When fresh embryos are used for IVF, the incidence of miscarriage is similar to that of women who conceive naturally and ranges from 15% to 25%; however, the rate rises with maternal age.

Problems with the egg retrieval process. Egg collection using an aspirating needle may result in hemorrhage, infection, or harm to the intestine, bladder, or blood vessel. Sedation and general anesthesia include risks as well if employed.

Ectopic conception. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, typically in the fallopian tubes, and affects about 2% to 5% of women who undergo IVF. There is no way to carry the pregnancy on since the fertilized egg cannot live outside the uterus.

Birth flaws. No matter how the kid is conceived, the mother's age is the main risk factor for the development of birth abnormalities. It is necessary to do more studies to establish whether particular birth abnormalities may be more likely to occur in offspring created through IVF.

Cancer. Although some early research showed there could be a connection between some drugs used to promote egg formation and the establishment of a particular type of ovarian tumor, more current research refutes these claims. Breast, endometrial, cervical, or ovarian cancer risk following IVF does not seem to be considerably higher.

Stress. Utilizing IVF might be taxing on a physical, mental, and emotional level. Therapists, relatives, and friends can provide you and your partner with the assistance you need to get through the ups and downs of infertility treatment.


Numerous variables affect a clinic's success rate. These include the patients' ages and medical problems, the kinds of patients being treated at the clinic, and the therapeutic techniques. Ask for particular information on the costs associated with each step of the legal process.

You and your spouse will probably require a number of tests before starting an IVF cycle with your own eggs and sperm, such as:

Testing for ovarian reserve. Your doctor may do blood tests to measure the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol (estrogen), and anti-mullerian hormone during the first few days of your menstrual cycle to evaluate the number and quality of your eggs. Results from tests, which are frequently combined with an ultrasound of your ovaries, can aid in predicting how your ovaries will react to fertility drugs.

Semen examination. Your doctor will do a semen analysis just before the beginning of an IVF treatment cycle if it was not done as part of your first fertility assessment.

Screening for infectious diseases. HIV and other infectious disease screenings will be performed on both you and your companion.

Practice transferring embryos. Your doctor may carry out a mock embryo transfer to determine the depth of your uterine cavity and the technique most likely to successfully implant the embryos into your uterus.

Exam of the womb. Your doctor will examine the inner lining of the uterus before you start IVF. This might entail a sonohysterogram, when fluid is inserted into your uterus through the cervix, along with an ultrasound that produces photos of the interior of your uterus. Or it could include a hysteroscopy, in which a lighted, thin, flexible telescope (hysteroscope) is introduced into your uterus through your vagina and cervix.

Before starting an IVF cycle, take into account crucial issues, such as:

How many embryos are planned for transfer? 

Usually, the number of eggs recovered and the age are used to determine the number of embryos to be transplanted. More embryos are often transferred since older women have a reduced rate of implantation, with the exception of those who use donor eggs or embryos that have undergone genetic testing.

In order to avoid higher-order multiple pregnancies, such as triplets or more, the majority of doctors adhere to strict rules. Legislation in several nations limits the number of embryos that transfer. Before the transfer operation, be sure you and your doctor have an agreement on the number of embryos that will be transplanted

Any excess embryos—what will you do with them? 

Extra embryos can be frozen and kept for several years in anticipation of usage. Although most embryos will, not all will survive the freezing and thawing procedure.

Frozen embryos can reduce the cost and invasiveness of future IVF cycles. Alternatively, you can give any extra frozen embryos to a research center or another couple. You might also decide to throw away any leftover embryos.

How would you handle pregnancy with multiples? 

IVF can lead to multiple pregnancies if more than one embryo is placed in your uterus, which is risky for your health.

You and your children. Fetal reduction may be utilized in some situations to assist a mother in giving birth to fewer children with fewer health hazards. However, choosing to pursue fetal reduction is a significant choice with moral, psychological, and emotional repercussions.

Have you thought about the possible drawbacks of utilizing gestational carriers, donated eggs, sperm, or embryos? 

You can better comprehend your worries, such as the donor's legal rights, with the aid of a skilled counselor with experience in donor-related matters. You might also need a lawyer to assist you to complete legal documents so that you can legally adopt an implanted embryo. 


Ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, sperm retrieval, fertilization, and embryo transfer are all milestones in the IVF process. IVF cycles typically last two to three weeks. It can take more than one cycle.

Induction of ovulation

Instead of the solitary egg that ordinarily develops each month, the ovaries are stimulated to generate numerous eggs at the beginning of an IVF cycle using synthetic hormones. As some eggs will not fertilize or develop normally after fertilization, many eggs are required.

Several distinct drugs, including:

Medications that stimulate the ovaries. You can be given an injectable medicine that contains follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), or a combination of both to activate your ovaries. These medications promote the concurrent production of several eggs.

Oocyte maturation medications. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) or other medications will be administered to you to aid in the development of the eggs once the follicles are ready for egg extraction, which usually takes place eight to fourteen days later.

Prescription drugs to stop early ovulation. These medications prevent your body from releasing developing eggs too soon.

Medications that will get your uterus ready. Your doctor may advise you to start taking progesterone supplements to prepare your uterine lining for implantation on the day of egg retrieval or at the time of embryo transfer.

To decide which drugs to take and when your doctor will consult with you.

Typically, you will require ovarian stimulation for one to two weeks before your eggs are prepared for retrieval. When the eggs are ready to be picked up, you may have:

  • Using vaginal ultrasound, which is an imaging test of your ovaries, you may keep track of how your follicles—the fluid-filled ovarian sacs where eggs grow.
  • Blood testing to evaluate how well you respond to ovarian stimulation drugs — Progesterone levels normally remain low until after ovulation, but estrogen levels typically rise as follicles form.

For one of the following reasons, IVF cycles may need to be stopped before egg retrieval:

  • Insufficient follicle development
  • Untimely ovulation
  • The development of too many follicles increases the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

Other health problems

If your cycle is stopped, your doctor may advise adjusting your medication or dosage in order to improve the outcome of subsequent IVF cycles.

Egg recovery

A clinic or your doctor's office can do egg retrieval 34 to 36 hours after the last injection and prior to ovulation. You will be sedated and given painkillers for egg retrieval.

Transvaginal ultrasonography aspiration is the most typical type of retrieval. Your vagina is probed with an ultrasound device to find follicles. The eggs are then extracted by passing a small needle into the vagina and into the follicles using ultrasound guidance.

An abdominal ultrasound could be utilised to guide the needle if transvaginal ultrasound can not reach your ovaries.

Through a needle attached to a suction tool, the eggs are extracted from the follicles. Several eggs can be extracted in around 20 minutes.

Following egg retrieval, you could feel pressured or full, and you might get cramps.

A nourishing liquid (culture medium) is used to incubate mature eggs. Sperm and healthy, mature eggs will be combined in an effort to develop embryos. However, not every egg will necessarily become fertile.

Sperm recovery

A semen sample must be given at your doctor's office or clinic on the morning of egg retrieval if you are utilizing your partner's sperm. Typically, semen samples are obtained by masturbation. It may occasionally be necessary to use other methods, such as testicular aspiration, which entails taking sperm directly from the testis via a needle or other surgical operation. Additionally, donated sperm may be used. Sperm and semen fluid are separated in a lab.


One can try fertilization. utilizing two typical techniques:

Standard insemination. During conventional insemination, healthy sperm and mature eggs are joined, and they are then incubated for one night.

Injection of intracytoplasmic sperm (ICSI). During ICSI, one sound sperm is promptly inserted into each developed egg. When semen quantity or quality is an issue, or if fertilization efforts during previous IVF cycles were unsuccessful, ICSI is frequently performed.

Before embryo transfer, your doctor could advise extra treatments in some circumstances.

Aided egg hatching. An embryo "hatches" from its surrounding membrane (zona pellucida) about five to six days after fertilization, enabling it to implant into the lining of the uterus. Your doctor could suggest assisted hatching, a procedure in which a hole is formed. If you are an older woman or if you have had several unsuccessful IVF efforts. For eggs or embryos that have already been frozen, assisted hatching can harden the zona pellucida, which is advantageous.

Genetic testing before implantation. Embryos are allowed to grow in the incubator for around five to six days, or until a little sample may be removed and checked for certain genetic abnormalities or the proper number of chromosomes. Embryos that do not have altered chromosomes or genes can be transferred to your uterus. The risk of a parent passing on a genetic condition can be reduced but not entirely eliminated using preimplantation genetic testing. Testing could still be suggested during the whole pregnancy.

Transfer of embryos

  • A moderate sedative may be administered to you. Even though the operation is mostly painless, you can feel a little discomfort.
  • The medical professional will place a catheter—a long, thin, flexible tube—into your vagina, past your cervix, and into your uterus.
  • One or more embryos are suspended in a small volume of fluid at the tip of the catheter in a syringe that is attached to the catheter.
  • The embryo or embryos are injected into your uterus by the doctor using a syringe.
  • In the event that all goes well, an embryo will attach to the lining of your uterus approximately 10 days following egg extraction.

After the Procedure

Following the embryo transfer, you can continue your normal daily activities. However, your ovaries may still be enlarged. Consider avoiding vigorous activities because they could be unpleasant.

Common negative consequences include:

  • Passing a tiny quantity of clear or red fluid soon after the operation as a result of the cervix being swabbed prior to the embryo transfer
  • Breast sensitivity brought on by excessive estrogen levels
  • Slight bloating
  • Light cramps
  • Constipation

Call your doctor if you feel any moderate to severe discomfort following the embryo transfer. Your risk of problems including infection, ovarian torsion, and severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome will be assessed by the medical professional.


Your doctor will test a sample of your blood to see if you are pregnant about 12 to 2 weeks following egg retrieval.

If you are expecting, your doctor will recommend that you receive prenatal care from an obstetrician or other pregnancy expert.

You will stop taking progesterone if you are not pregnant and probably start getting your period within a week. Contact your doctor if you do not receive your period or experience unusual bleeding. Your doctor might recommend measures you can take to increase your chances of becoming pregnant through IVF if you are interested in trying another cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The likelihood of having a healthy baby after utilizing IVF depends on a number of variables, including:

Mother's age. The more youthful you are, the greater your chances of becoming pregnant and giving birth to a healthy child are high. Women over the age of 41 are frequently advised to think about utilizing donor eggs during IVF to improve success rates.

Embryonic stage. More mature embryo transfers are associated with higher pregnancy rates as compared to less developed embryo transfers (day two or three). However, not all embryos survive the development stage. With your doctor or another healthcare provider, go over your specific situation.

Reproductive background. The likelihood of success with IVF is higher for women who have already given birth than for those who have never done so. Women who have used IVF more than once in the past but were unsuccessful in becoming pregnant have lower success percentages.

Identifying the cause of infertility. Your chances of utilizing IVF to conceive rise if you have normal egg production. Compared to women with unexplained infertility, those with severe endometriosis had a lower chance of success with IVF.

Lifestyle elements. Smokers may miscarry more frequently and have fewer eggs retrieved during IVF. Smoking can lower a woman's chance of having an IVF pregnancy by 50%. Your chances of becoming pregnant and having a child might be lowered if you are obese. Alcohol use, recreational drug use, excessive caffeine intake, and the use of some medicines can all be dangerous.

You should talk to your doctor about any factors that are specific to you and how they can affect your chances of conceiving effectively.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 15, 2023

Next review due: Mar 15, 2025

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