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In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

The process of in-vitro fertilisation involves six steps and can take anywhere between four to seven weeks, depending on various factors such as the IVF protocol used by your doctor and whether any preparation is required. Although the process is standardised these days, there is always room for personalisation and adjustments. The success rate of an IVF cycle is primarily determined by the female's age and ovarian reserve, but there is also an important percentage that is related to men or donor samples. Generally, the success rate of an IVF cycle can be anywhere between 20-50%. It's best to ask your doctor directly about how it is calculated. Below are the steps involved in the process:

1. Assessment to determine suitability for treatment.

  • Blood tests such as AMH, FBC, TSH, and PRL are typically conducted alongside a transvaginal scan to assess the ovaries and uterus. The scan helps determine the ovaries' accessibility, and the number of antral follicles (antral follicular count or AFC), and ensures no cysts are present. The blood test helps determine the appropriate medication, dosage, and treatment prognosis in terms of the potential number of collected eggs. The scan also checks the uterus and its lining to ensure no fibroids or polyps are present. On the male side, it's essential to check semen analysis (SA) to know all the parameters and determine if IVF is the appropriate technique. If one or more parameters are altered, then intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) would be recommended. Some clinics request DNA fragmentation or hormonal profiles for the male partner too, as standard requirements. When working with a donor sperm sample, the sample is usually suitable for both fertilisation options.

 

2. Preparation for an in-vitro fertilization cycle

  • Is important and it is recommended to take certain medications and supplements to optimize the quantity and quality of eggs retrieved and to improve sperm motility. These include Co-Q-10, a contraceptive pill, norethisterone, DHEA, and Testosterone gel. Preparation for females usually takes up to 3 weeks (21 days) whereas for males it can take up to 3 months. It is important to discuss with your doctor if preparation is recommended in your specific scenario.

 

3. Stimulation of ovaries using gonadotropins.

  • During this stage, which lasts for about 10-12 days, the ovaries are stimulated with medications to induce follicle growth. Transvaginal ultrasounds are performed during this time to monitor the ovaries and count the number of follicles and their size. Blood tests are also taken to measure the estradiol level, which helps evaluate ovarian response. When follicles reach a size of 17-22 mm, a trigger shot is administered, and the patient is scheduled for an egg collection procedure typically 34-36 hours after the last injection.

 

4. Eggs are collected and then fertilised using IVF or ICSI.

  • The egg collection procedure, commonly known as EC, is a 15-20 minute process carried out in a theatre. The method of performing the procedure varies based on the clinic and country policies and can be done under conscious sedation, local anaesthetics, or general anaesthesia. A transvaginal ultrasound probe is used to access the ovaries and extract as many eggs as possible. Once the procedure is completed, the follicular fluid and eggs are sent to the lab for assessment. This allows the embryologist to provide more feedback to the patients if required. The eggs are then either subjected to ICSI fertilisation or are combined with sperm for attempting IVF. The day after the EC the patients are informed about how many embryos were created and the next steps for instance elective freeze on day 5 or starting progesterone for a fresh transfer on day 5. Also recommendations about luteal phase support like progesterone administration.

 

5. Embryo transfer procedure (ET)

  • The embryo transfer procedure, also known as ET, is normally performed five days after the egg collection. The procedure is conducted in a theatre that is close to the lab. Most of the time, sedation is not required, and the entire process takes only 10-15 minutes. During ET, a vaginal procedure is performed, where doctors insert a gynae speculum and an embryo transfer catheter. The embryos are then carefully placed inside the cavity of the uterus. To ensure accurate placement, the majority of clinics perform the procedure under abdominal ultrasound guidance. Most clinics limit embryo transfers to one at a time.

 

6. Pregnancy test 

  • The pregnancy test should be conducted normally after 10-14 days following the embryo transfer on the blastocyst stage (day 5). It is recommended to have a determination of B-HCG level in the blood rather than a urine test, as it is more precise. If the result is positive, instructions will be given to return after 4-6 weeks to perform a transvaginal scan to check the viability of the embryo. If the result is negative, the medication intake will stop and a conversation with your doctor will occur in most cases.

Short Antagonist Protocol

Preparation

stage

IVF process step by step explained

Ovarian stimulation

EC

ET

Pregnancy test

Dr. Alex has partnered with various clinics in different countries. In Ireland, he has partnered with Repromed Ireland and Thérapie Fertility Clinic. If you are looking to do your treatment in London, UK, Dr. Alex can refer you to CRGH Fertility Clinic. There are also other options available in Spain, such as Fertilab Barcelona and Ovoclinic, which have a presence in Madrid, Sevilla, Marbella, and Ceuta.

The possibilities are endless!

If you are seeking a comprehensive assessment, along with a tailored strategy that includes the number of cycles required, possible side effects, and realistic expectations from a cycle. In that case, I recommend booking a consultation. You will receive personalized, unbiased advice and a treatment plan that is customized to your individual needs.

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