A Typical IVF Cycle

This summary comes straight from the Manchester Fertility Clinic. To contact them please ring 0161 300 2730. If you wish to discuss the role of acupuncture in IVF then please contact me.

If you need IVF you may be wondering what happens. Obviously everyone’s treatment pathway is different, but here’s an overview of what a typical cycle of IVF entails. Acupuncture is thought to help those going through IVF and fertility treatments in numerous ways, including promoting relaxation and wellbeing during your journey.

Ovarian Stimulation and monitoring

Once your IVF cycle begins, the first stage is to stimulate your ovaries to produce more mature eggs than usual.

This is done through a course of drugs, which you self administer via injection at certain times.

Throughout this stage you will be carefully monitored to ensure that the risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) is minimised – this is when the ovaries produce too many eggs.

There are different medications, doses and protocols. No two women are the same and the doctor will tailor your protocol depending on your requirements and response to the medications.

Egg retrieval

Once the doctor has identified that your eggs are ready for collection, you will go to the clinic and undergo the egg retrieval procedure. This is a performed under sedation so that you will be completely comfortable. There is always an  anaesthetist to look after you while you are being sedated.

During the procedure a fine needle is passed into the ovaries to retrieve the eggs. Once your eggs are retrieved they are passed straight to the embryologists. you will be told how many eggs you have available for your IVF cycle. You’ll be able to go home a few hours after the procedure.

Sperm sample

At the same time, your partner provides  a sperm sample. Dependent upon your individual treatment needs, this sperm may either be used traditionally where the sperm is mixed with your egg, or in an Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) procedure, where one single healthy sperm is chosen and injected directly into the egg.

Embryo development

Once your eggs have been mixed with your partner’s sperm, or have been injected with single sperms via an ICSI procedure, they are then transferred to special incubators  to grow and develop. If the eggs successfully fertilise they are now called embryos, and embryologists monitor their growth.

The embryos are left to grow in the incubator. The embryologists will decide with you when to transfer the embryos. This depends on the number and quality of your embryos. Your embryos may be left to develop for five days, and then they are called Blastocysts.

Embryo transfer

If there are embryos for transfer, the clinic will arrange for you to come back  to undergo the procedure to place them back into your uterus, where they will hopefully grow as in a natural pregnancy.

Embryo transfer is usually a simple procedure and you will be able to go home soon after. You do not need an anaesthetic and the process is a bit like having a smear. Normally your partner/ supporter can come with you.

If you have good quality embryos some may be frozen  for future use. We may either transfer just one embryo – this is known as Single Embryo Transfer and is aimed at reducing the risk of multiple births – or dependent upon your age and medical history, the doctor may decide that transferring two embryos is the right choice for you.

Pregnancy test

Around two weeks after your embryo transfer, you will be able to take a home pregnancy test. If the test is positive, the hospital will arrange for you to come in and undergo an ultrasound scan at around seven weeks, to see how the embryo is developing and if there is a heartbeat.

If the test is negative, you may either repeat the test a few days later – sometimes pregnancy hormones aren’t strong enough to show in the test if it’s done too early – or it could be that IVF hasn’t been successful on this occasion.

You’ll be offered counselling and the hospital will then arrange for you to see a fertility specialist to discuss the next steps.