The Basics of IVF

A medical syringe piercing and injecting a sperm into an egg.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most common and successful ways to conceive when faced with fertility challenges. At Mandell’s Clinical Pharmacy, we break down the basics to help you understand what IVF is and how it works. Hopefully this information helps you feel more comfortable on your fertility journey!

What is IVF?

At its core, IVF is a set of procedures to achieve pregnancy. IVF works by closely replicating the steps of natural conception in a controlled setting to increase the odds of achieving a pregnancy.

IVF treatment can include your own egg and partner’s sperm or donor eggs, sperm or embryos. A gestational carrier (where a woman has an embryo implanted in her uterus) might also be used.

The three basic steps of IVF include:

  • Egg removal from the ovary
  • Fertilization in a laboratory
  • Placing embryos in the uterus

IVF usually follows other infertility treatments, such as fertility medications or intrauterine insemination. Your doctor may recommend IVF treatment earlier based on your age or other factors such as fallopian tube damage or genetic disorders.

How Does IVF Work?

In the first phase of IVF treatment, you’ll use injectable fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries so multiple eggs are available. During the second half of your cycle, you can expect to take a progesterone supplement to help get your endometrium ready for implantation.

For retrieval, an ultrasound will help guide a needle into each follicle to remove the mature eggs – a process called aspiration. The eggs are then incubated individually in a laboratory.

The morning of fertilization, your partner will provide a semen sample at the doctor’s office or clinic. In most cases, healthy sperm and mature eggs are then mixed and incubated.

[Note: If your partner has low semen quality or you’ve experienced failed IVF attempts, specialists may inject a single healthy sperm directly into each mature egg as part of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).]

The final phase of IVF involves placing the embryos in the uterus through an embryo transfer, which is done “fresh” or “frozen.” Similar to intrauterine insemination, a catheter is inserted in the cervix to place the embryos correctly in the uterus.

What to Expect After IVF Treatment

You’ll be able to see if IVF worked 12 days to two weeks after egg retrieval with a blood test which will reveal if the transfer resulted in pregnancy!

How Can We Help?

Mandell’s Clinical Pharmacy is here to help you understand what IVF is, how it works and how to find the right fertility medications. We’ve been through IVF personally, and have seen firsthand how it can help you on your journey towards a healthy pregnancy. (You can read all about our story here). Need a partner on your fertility journey? We can help you on your way. Contact us today or stop on by.