In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) can be used to overcome a range of fertility issues, including sperm antibodies, endometriosis, and unexplained infertility. For many couples, it gives them the best chance of having a baby.
With the IVF process, sperm fertilises the eggs in a laboratory, rather than inside the woman's fallopian tubes.
An egg from the female partner is placed together in a culture dish with many thousands of sperm (typically about 50,000) prepared from a semen sample provided by the male partner. Over the next few hours, fertilisation takes place and some embryos are formed.
The fertilised embryos are developed in the laboratory over three to five days, and then transferred to the woman’s uterus in a simple procedure called an embryo transfer.
If more than two embryos develop, we can freeze the surplus ones for use in subsequent cycles.
Find out more about freezing embryos
The IVF process step by step
Each IVF treatment cycle takes around six weeks. This is what happens in a typical cycle:
Step 1: Initial Specialist Appointment
At your initial appointment, your fertility speacialist will review your medical history and all previous investigations and treatments.
Blood tests may be updated (including HIV, Hepatitis B and C) and semen analysis and ultrasound may be undertaken. Some preliminary advice regarding your treatment options will also be discussed with you. We recommend both you and your partner attend this appointment. You will need to bring a referral from your GP or specialist Obstetrician and Gyanecologist to your first appointment with the fertility specialist (which needs to have both you and your partner's name on it to be eligible for the Medicare rebate), together with any results from tests or treatment previously undertaken.
Step 2: Pre-treatment consultation
A final 'pre-treatment' consultation with your fertility specialist is arranged where the relevant consent forms will be signed, your treatment plan confirmed and your questions answered. It is very important you tell your fertility specialist at this appointment about any complementary medicines you are taking, as these may interfere with your treatment.
Step 3: Treatment begins
An orientation visit is organised with a nurse at the clinic to recap on your treatment plan. We recommend both you and your partner attend this appointment. You will be provided with medication, explained the treatment cycle timeline, and taught how to self-administer the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) injections.
Step 4: Hormone stimulation
Using Follicle Stimulating Hormone medication (administered via a diabetic style pen) your ovaries will be stimulated to encourage greater egg production than what occurs naturally. This allows us to maximise the number of rescued eggs available to collect so we have a higher chance of achieving fertilisation and subsequent pregnancy.
Step 5: Treatment monitoring
Throughout your treatment cycle, we monitor you closely with regular blood tests (to measure your hormone levels) and ultrasounds (to measure the size and number of your ovarian follicles – imagine a small sac to hold the egg). This also helps us determine the appropriate time for egg collection. At IVFAustralia, all of your blood and ultrasound tests are conducted by our nurses within our clinics, and are included as part of your treatment costs. You can choose to have your blood and ultrasound test conducted at any one of our clinics and monitoring sites across Sydney.
Step 6: Trigger injecton
Once you have an optimum number and size of follicles we will plan your egg collection. You will have a trigger injection of hCG (human chorionic gonatrophin) in the evening and the operation for egg collection will occur 36 to 38 hours later. The hCG injection replaces the natural Luteinising Hormone in the body and 'triggers' or instigates ovulation.
Step 7: Egg collection in day surgery
Egg collection is undertaken in day surgery/hospital and is usually done under ultrasound guidance. Most women prefer a light general anaesthetic, however you can undertake the procedure under local anesthesia with sedation if you prefer. You will be at the hospital for about 4 hours and need someone to drive you home afterwards (don't plan to work that day). On the morning of your egg collection your partner will need to provide a fresh semen (sperm) sample so we can immediately fertilise your eggs after collection.
Step 8: Egg fertilisation
Collected eggs are taken to the laboratory and placed in culture medium in preparation of fertilisation later that day. In IVF, prepared sperm and eggs are placed together in a dish where fertilisation occurs. In ICSI, an individual sperm is selected by a highly experienced embryologist, and, under very delicate microscopic control, the egg is injected with this single sperm.
Step 9: Embryo development
The egg and sperm are then placed in individual incubators at 37 degrees to mimic the temperature of the human body. The following day, the scientists will examine the eggs to determine if fertilisation has occurred and will call you to advise you of the embryos' development.
Step 10: Embryo transfer
Embryo transfer is a simple procedure performed in a day surgery/hospital usually that takes place five days after the egg collection procedure. The embryos are transferred into the uterus through a very fine catheter passed through the cervix, a procedure similar to a pap smear. Earlier embryo transfers may take place depending on individual cases.
Step 11: Embryo freezing
Any extra embryos that are not used during a treatment cycle, and are suitable for freezing, can be stored for up to five years.
Step 12: Pregnancy test
The nurses will organise an appointment for you to have a blood pregnancy test two weeks after the embryo transfer, whether your period has commenced or not, as occasionally women can have a period but still be pregnant. We do not recommend the use of urinary pregnancy test kits, especially as the hormone medication given throughout treatment will provide an incorrect reading. The only reliable pregnancy test is a blood test. The pregnancy blood test results are usually available by mid afternoon. If the pregnancy test is positive, we will arrange an ultrasound scan approximately three weeks later.
The best chance of success, with the least disruption to your life
At Hunter IVF, we do all we can to give you the best chance of a successful pregnancy, while minimising the disruption to your life.