About In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
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 of pregnancy, because fertilization takes place outside of the body. A woman’s eggs are extracted and placed in a culture dish with thousands of sperm during IVF. The fertilized embryos are grown in the laboratory, then the most viable embryos are transferred into the patient’s uterus.
The Five Phases of an IVF Cycle
Your physician will take the time to help you understand the IVF process. They will explain each step to you in detail along with the timeline for your treatment. A complete IVF cycle consists of a number of smaller steps or phases. This summary is meant as a general guideline to serve as a reference for you.
Phase 1: Follicle Stimulation
In a normal menstrual cycle, only one egg develops and matures each month. The egg matures inside a fluid-filled structure on the ovary called a follicle. That follicle can be seen on an ultrasound.
The patient takes medications that encourage the ovaries to develop multiple follicles, therefore, multiple eggs. Medications are 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 planned, as it dictates when the next step-the retrieval, will take place. Our team carefully monitors the patient through 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, then the eggs are fertilized. In some instances, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) may be used. In this process, the embryologist physically injects sperm into the egg. 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 in order to select embryos that are 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
In the final procedural phase of IVF, the embryos that have developed in our laboratory are implanted, or returned, into 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.