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What to Expect When You Have IVF

What to Expect When You Have IVF

Do you have questions about IVF? You’re not alone. In fact, 1 in 7 couples will experience conception problems.1

Now, as more and more people turn to assisted conception, there’s never been a greater need to understand the process. It’s always best to be prepared because while in-vitro fertilisation is an incredible resource, it is one that involves a significant emotional (and often financial) investment. Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the joy of holding your very own baby in your arms.

So what does it involve? We spoke with one of the UK’s leading IVF experts Mr Rehan Salim, Consultant at The Wolfson Fertility Centre at Hammersmith Hospital, to demystify the process.

What is IVF?

Essentially, during In-Vitro Fertilisation, a woman’s eggs are retrieved, before being fertilised with sperm in the laboratory. Then these fertilised eggs (now called embryos) are inserted back into the womb to develop.

Do I Need IVF?

IVF can be employed to circumvent a range of medical issues that can create infertility, for example ovulatory disorders, blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis and suboptimal sperm. It can also be used to overcome unexplained infertility.2

Here at Private Pregnancy UK we can help you find a Top Private Fertility/IVF Consultant or a Private Fertility/IVF Clinic or Hospital to guide you on your IVF journey.

Mr Rehan SalimMr Salim told us: “I would advise that if you’ve been trying for a year or so without success, it is worthwhile seeing an expert for fertility testing. If you are over the age of 35, you may not want to wait as long as a year before getting tested. Women especially have biological clocks, so really the sooner you get to the bottom of any issues, the better.”

At a good IVF clinic, Mr Salim says, you can expect detailed consultation before you begin anything. At The Wolfson Fertility Centre, specialists spend time finding out all about a couple’s medical history and fertility profile, in order to tailor an IVF plan specially for them.

If your doctor feels you could benefit, and you decide you wish to go ahead, here is what you can expect…

The IVF Process

Step 1: Ovary Stimulation

Normally, a woman’s ovaries will generate one egg each menstrual cycle. For IVF, you will have daily hormone injections (usually self-administered) which will encourage your ovaries to produce more. The goal is between 5 to 15 eggs, and this is because not all of these will be of good quality – indeed only some of them will not develop into healthy embryos or even fertilise.

At The Wolfson Fertility Centre, different women will undergo daily injections for different lengths of time according to their individual assessment, but usually for around two weeks. Mr Salim told us: “Remember, your IVF plan should be specifically designed for your individual needs, taking you and your partner’s full profile and history into account.”

Step 2: Monitoring

You will be monitored throughout the process with blood tests and scans, to ensure you are responding well. Your consultant will want to guard against the very unlikely event of over-stimulation. So he/she will ask you questions about how you’re feeling and it’s obviously key that you speak candidly with them.

Step 3: Trigger Injection

You will be given one final ‘trigger injection’ – a special hormone which helps to mature your eggs before retrieval.

Step 4: Egg Collection

Egg collection is done as a day procedure, with some sedation to keep you comfortable and relaxed.

Your eggs are retrieved with the aid of ultrasound guidance. A needle is passed through the vagina and into each of your ovaries. The process takes around 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards you may experience a little period like cramping or light vaginal bleeding.

Step 5: Fertilisation

After your eggs have been retrieved they will be inseminated in a laboratory; eggs and sperm are ‘mixed’ in a dish to allow fertilisation to take place.

If the male partner has below average sperm motility or a low sperm count, or if you have experienced previous IVF failure, fertility experts can directly inject sperm into the eggs to improve fertilisation chances – this is known as Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).

One day after the egg collection, your team will let you know how many of your eggs have successfully fertilised, and you will begin taking progesterone to prepare your womb for the transfer of the embryos.

Step 6: Embryo Transfer

After your eggs are fertilised, they are given a few days to develop (between two to five days). Then, one or two embryos will be transferred into your uterus. In some rare cases (for women over the age of forty two for example), your team may advise the transfer of three embryos to offer you the best chance of pregnancy.

Mr Salim told us: “Embryo transfer is a fairly straightforward procedure, and actually it can usually be conducted without sedation – we often compare it to a smear test. However, it is crucial that it be done at the right time, to give you the best chance of success – and the right time varies from patient to patient. So at The Wolfson Fertility Centre, we perform embryo transfers seven days a week to get the specific timing right for each patient.”

If your team deems any spare eggs to be of suitable quality then they can be frozen. Then, if another cycle of IVF is necessary, these eggs could be used – saving you the trouble of repeating the early steps.

Step 7: Pregnancy Test

You will be given a date for your pregnancy test after the embryo transfer. If your test is positive, your consultant will advise you to keep taking hormone supplements for the time being, to support your pregnancy. You will have an early pregnancy scan to make sure the pregnancy is coming along well.

Try not to become disheartened if you don’t get pregnant after your first cycle of IVF. NICE recommends a full three rounds of IVF as standard.3

Are you considering IVF? Find out more about the gold standard fertility services available at The Wolfson Fertility Centre at Hammersmith Hospital. You can also attend one of their monthly fertility open evenings to speak to the team in person.

The private services at The Wolfson Fertility Centre are delivered by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in collaboration with Imperial Private Healthcare.

Related video: How IVF Works 




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