In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a very effective form of assisted reproductive technology. Developed in the early 1980s, it has been continuously refined and made ever more effective. More than 5 million babies have been born through IVF worldwide. It is a proven technique that we frequently use at Fertility Centers of Illinois to help our patients to become parents. Our IVF laboratories are two of the largest, most experienced IVF labs in the Midwest and are known for the development of and use of the most innovative and advanced technologies. Our cutting-edge labs are the key to our high success rates.
IVF increases the chance that pregnancy will occur, as fertilization takes place outside of the body. With IVF, a woman’s eggs are extracted and placed in a culture dish with thousands of sperm. Resulting embryos are grown in the laboratory, and the most viable are transferred back to the patient’s uterus. As our patient, your physician will take the time to help you understand the IVF process and explain to you in detail each step and the timeline for your treatment. This summary is meant as a general guideline to serve as a reference for you.
The Five Phases of an IVF Cycle
A complete IVF cycle consists of a number of smaller steps or phases, outlined here:
Phase 1. Follicle Stimulation
In a normal menstrual cycle, just one egg develops and matures each month. The egg matures within a fluid-filled structure on the ovary called a follicle, which can be seen on an ultrasound.
In this first phase of IVF, the patient will take medications that encourage the ovaries to develop multiple follicles, and therefore multiple eggs. The medication is self-administered through an injection.
When the eggs have sufficiently matured, a Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) injection prepares them for removal. The timing of this shot is carefully choreographed with the help of our team as it dictates when the next step, retrieval, will take place.
Throughout Phase 1, our team carefully monitors the patient through the use of frequent ultrasounds and blood tests.
Phase 2: Retrieval
As part of the retrieval process, the patient will receive a mild dose of anesthesia to ease any anxieties and encourage relaxation. Our physicians then gently remove the mature eggs. After this procedure, the patient relaxes in our recovery room until she feels ready to return home.
Phase 3: Fertilization
Our embryologist carefully evaluates the condition of the eggs. The healthiest sperm are identified from the provided sample and the eggs are fertilized. In some instances, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) may be used. In this process, sperm are physically injected into the egg by the embryologist. ICSI can help overcome certain male infertility problems including poor sperm quality, low sperm count, anatomical abnormalities or post-vasectomy infertility.
The embryologist evaluates which eggs have been successfully fertilized by examining the cell division that has occurred thus far. Before transfer, the embryologist will grade the embryos based on their likelihood of successfully implanting in the uterus. Those embryos with the best characteristics, which are dividing properly and at a normal rate, are chosen for transfer.
At your physician’s recommendation, our embryologists will work with a geneticist to perform genetic screening to select embryos free of chromosomal abnormalities and specific genetic disorders that can interfere with embryo implantation, result in pregnancy loss or in the birth of a child with physical or developmental problems. Your physician may recommend genetic testing if your medical history or age indicates that your embryos could be affected by a genetic disease.
Phase 4: Embryo Transfer
This is the return of the embryos that have developed in our laboratory to the uterus. The embryo transfer procedure is simpler than the egg retrieval, with no need for anesthesia. A speculum is inserted in the vagina and a very fine, soft catheter is eased through the cervix. The embryos are then released into the middle of the uterus through the catheter. The patient will return to their home the same day, and ideally, physical activity should be limited for the next day or two. Embryo implantation should begin within a few days and is followed by a pregnancy test.
Phase 5: Follow up Blood Tests and Obstetrical Appointment
Eight to 14 days after transfer, the patient will have a pregnancy test. We recommend the pregnancy test and first obstetric ultrasound (if applicable) be done at our practice so that we can offer full medical and emotional support.
Once pregnancy has been shown to be progressing normally with an ultrasound and blood work, the patient returns to her referring physician to continue obstetrical care.
IVF at Fertility Centers of Illinois
Our physicians will help you to determine if IVF is the right treatment for you. If IVF is a part of your customized treatment plan, you can rest assured that the expertise and technology at our two IVF labs is at the forefront of the industry and that our staff will offer you heartfelt support every step of your IVF cycle. We invite you to contact us to learn how we can assist you in your journey to parenthood.