What the heck is IVF?

WHO IS THIS POST FOR?
  • YOU JUST LEARNED YOU MAY NEED TO GO TO A FERTILITY DOCTOR.
  • IUI HAS FAILED AND YOU ARE BEING MOVED TO IVF.
  • YOU ARE IN A SAME SEX RELATIONSHIP AND ARE FAMILY PLANNING.
  • WOMEN WHO DON’T WANT KIDS NOW AND ARE CONSIDERING FREEZING THEIR EGGS.
  • SUPPORTIVE/CURIOUS FRIENDS!
IVF= In Vitro Fertilization

In laymen’s terms…. the sexiest way to make a baby. Real talk, IVF is assisted implantation of a fertilized embryo into a womb.

How does IVF happen?

The way families get to the stage of IVF varies. Some couples have to do IVF because of past medical history, while others are counseled to this step after failed rounds of IUI (Intrauterine insemination). There are endless reasons as to why folks need IVF, whatever the reason may be, it is the pits.

IVF can happen in two ways: fresh transfer or a frozen transfer.

STEP ONE:

Get those eggs! Whether you are using an egg donor or your own, the first step is retrieving eggs. If you are using your own eggs you will have a retrieval (ooolala!). If you are receiving a donation, eggs will be removed from a lab and will be fertilized with sperm.

Retrival (Tell me more! Sounds like a blast!)

If you are using your own eggs you must first have your eggs extracted from your ovaries. The cocktail of drugs your doctor uses will vary based on your body’s egg production, hormone levels, medical history, etc. The medications are to help with a few things:

  • Egg production/stimulation (FSH): You want to create as many follicles as possible so that you can get multiple eggs rather then just one during your procedure. Think of your ovaries as a factory for eggs working overtime during your first few days of stimulation.
  • Premature Ovulation: Once you have all of those eggs, you want to keep them in your ovaries! Heck you just worked super hard to create them all, the docs need to ensure you do not release any and ruin the entire plan.
  • Oocyte Maturation: What the what? Since you are keeping your follicles from releasing the eggs (ovulation) the doctors manipulate your timeline (between the 8th and 14th day of being on meds (source: MayoClinic)) with an HCG shot to tells your follicle friends its “go time.” Once you take this shot, you will go in for your procedure (within a very specific time frame), to have the eggs removed.

For your procedure you are put to sleep for the egg retrieval. After a day you feel decent. This of course though depends on your body etc. If you are prone to overstimulation (points to self) the days following the procedure are pretty tough because your ovaries swell to the size of an avocado or bigger, but thats a post for another time!

STEP 2: What to do with the eggs?

After the eggs are retrieved they are fertilized by sperm. Either the sperm meets the egg in a petri dish OR a sperm is shot directly into an egg through a process known as ICSI (future post in the works). Some doctors make you wait three days, while others will make you wait five-six days to see how many embryos fertilized and to measure the quality of the embryos.

Does this sound like a blast yet? Take a deep breath. It is a lot, BUT its do-able! Strong, smart women everywhere are able to get through the process. While it may suck the life out of you at the time, the feeling is temporary. Trust me, it goes away. Okay back to the process!

Fresh Transfer Vs. Frozen Transfer:

For those who are not prone to overstimulation, have a thick lining, and are cleared by their doctor, a fresh transfer will be their route to baby making. What this means is, the embryo will be removed from the lab (immediately following fertilization— day 3-5 depending on the lab) and transferred back into the woman’s uterus. The woman then waits 10 days (known as the 2WW in many IVF communities) to find out if the procedure worked.

A frozen transfer takes a lot more patience. If you overstimulated (cue me again) or have to have a hysteroscopy or have a host of other issues, you will not have your embryos transferred right after your retrieval. Rather, your embryos will be frozen after day 5 or 6 of fertilization. Your doctor will plot a timeline of transfers for you. A transfer requires a completely new round of meds, a new cocktail of drugs, and an additional procedure.

The transfers help the doctor uncover a lot about your ability to get pregnant. Transfers may help reveal if your eggs have gone “bad.”

There is A LOT to IVF. This post is just the quick version. It can be incredibly overwhelming but I assure you, having information makes the process a lot easier. Knowing why they are giving you certain meds, timelines, options etc.,  helps you gain control in a situation where you don’t have any.

-Annie

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