In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) literally translates into fertilization that happens outside the body. It is the process of removing sperm and egg from the body and developing them “in vitro” – in a dish.
In a normal menstrual cycle, only one follicle develops a mature egg, the “dominant follicle”. In IVF, the woman takes injectable hormone medications to stimulate the ovary to develop multiple follicles, instead of just one. All these follicles grow oocytes or “eggs”. These follicles are watched closely and measured on ultrasound and with blood levels. When they are large enough, the woman takes a “trigger shot” which initiates final maturity of the eggs. Next, an Egg Retrieval takes place.
The Egg Retrieval is the process where the patient is under anesthesia and a transvaginal ultrasound probe with a needle attached is placed in the vagina. The needle enters each follicle and all contents of the follicle (including the egg) are aspirated and sent to the embryology laboratory.
Once in the lab, the eggs are recovered and if the patient is doing an Egg Freeze Cycle (Oocyte Cryopreservation Cycle) the oocytes are frozen for future use. If the patient is creating embryos, the egg is mixed with sperm in the lab and embryos (cellular babies) are created. These embryos are developed in the dish until embryo transfer – when the embryo is placed back into the woman’s uterus or womb.
I tell all my patients “IVF is all about expectations” – meaning there is a rate of loss at each step in the process and it feels like you are on an emotional rollercoaster. One day you are thrilled – “Yay! 20 eggs! “The next day you are disappointed – “only 7 fertilized”, yes – that can happen! Preparing (as best you can) for the ups & downs that go with this process is just as important as taking your medications. Surrounding yourself with support before starting an #ivfjourney is one of the best things you can do. Remember – you are not alone (#1in8) and Knowledge is Power!!!!!