IVF involves taking oocytes from the woman, fertilizing them in the lab with sperm and transferring the resulting embryos back to her uterus 2-6 (usually 3-5) days later.
The woman is stimulated with injected medications (FSH or hMG) to stimulate multiple follicles to develop. These injections continue for about 8 – 10 days. Blood and ultrasound testing is done every 1-3 days to monitor the development of the follicles (fluid filled sacs containing oocytes) in the ovaries. When the woman’s follicles are mature, an oocyte (egg) retrieval (egg aspiration) procedure is performed to remove the eggs from the follicles. The eggs are then fertilized in the lab with her partner’s sperm. The embryos are cultured in the lab for 2-6 days.
The embryo transfer procedure is done which places the embryos in the woman’s uterus where they will hopefully implant and develop to result in a live birth. If there are leftover embryos (of sufficient quality) beyond the number that is transferred, many couples prefer to have them frozen (cryopreserved) for use in a future cycle (Frozen Embryo Transfer or FET). Embryo Cryopreservation can be used for another attempt at having a baby if the “fresh” cycle fails – or as an attempt to have another child if the fresh cycle is successful.