The below information is simply my understanding of the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) process as someone who has been through it four times. The hope is that this will help others understand it a little better, without the need for a medical degree. Please remember, I am not a medical professional, but simply a patient. I make no claims to have a medical background or extensive understanding of medical terminology. This is the layman’s perspective.
For IVF definitions, please visit my IVF Definitions page.
For anyone doing IVF (or other fertility procedures), everything revolves around the woman’s cycle. Basically, once your period appears (and you have confirmed you have gone yet one more month without getting pregnant, for whatever reason), that is your cue to call the doctor’s office. It is then that you get your ‘protocol’ for the month. This is your calendar of all the medications, procedures and appointments for the month. For most women, the first or second day of the cycle is when their first bloodwork (and possibly their first ultrasound) occurs. If you haven’t already done so, this is your chance to call the specialty pharmacy and order your thousands of dollars of medication for the month.
Once you have done that first appointment, your nurse will call to let you know what medications you will be starting and when. So begins the treatment cycle of daily injections and potentially other medications (I have personally done pills, shots, and patches). For some women, myself included, this can mean injections every 12 hours for a week or longer. It can also mean you are visiting the doctor’s office at least every two days for monitoring appointments.
The entire process culminates in the actual IVF procedures being scheduled. A trigger shot is done exactly 36 hours prior to the retrieval (at home and usually in the butt – this is really the most fun, especially since the needle is about 2 inches long and the shot usually occurs in the middle of the night). Then begins the process of waiting for the phone calls from the doctor to tell you how many eggs were retrieved, how many are viable and how many actually end up fertilized. If you are one of the lucky ones, you get enough embryos that you have the option to freeze some to use for later pregnancy attempts (I was never lucky enough to have any of these – we started from scratch each time). The transfer is scheduled, and when you go in, you may actually get to see a photo of your embryo(s) before they are placed in your uterus – which is actually kind of cool. Then you say your prays, head on your way, and hope for happy news after the two-week wait (a blood test is scheduled for two weeks later and then you receive a call later that day – I usually don’t work that day but rather go to the salon or veg out in front of the TV, as I’d be useless at work).
There you have it. That is the (very) quick run-down of the IVF process. This is as short as I could make it while still making sure I include all the essential parts. I hope this helps those who are scratching their heads about what IVF actually involves. Remember, this is an emotional process with many ups and downs (heighten by the use of hormones). Be sensitive to and supportive of friends and family going through it. Sometimes, they just need a hug or a shoulder to cry on.
For more information, please visit Shady Grove Fertility’s Resources page.
The entire content of this article is for information purposes only. The information contained in this site is not intended to be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a licensed medical professional.