Are you experiencing difficulty having a child? If so, you’re not alone. Reports show that up to one in eight couples struggle to become pregnant.
In America, 33 percent of people have had fertility treatment or know someone who has. One method involves in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Have you thought about this option and wondered how long the process of IVF takes?
Keep reading to learn more about IVF and the usual timeline.
Definition of Infertility
Infertility means not getting pregnant after one or more years of unprotected intercourse. A woman’s fertility decreases with age. Thus, doctors begin infertility treatment in women over the age of 35 after six months or after 12 months for women 34 years of age or younger.
If you believe you’re having problems with infertility, talk to a fertility specialist. A Reproductive endocrinologist specializes in treating infertility. They also treat women who’ve had two or more spontaneous miscarriages.
IVF offers a good fertility treatment option for couples with the following diagnoses:
- Absent or blocked fallopian tubes
- Abnormalities of sperm shape or movement, or low sperm counts
- Pelvic abnormalities or scarring
- Severe endometriosis
- Risk for future genetic disorders
- Repeated miscarriages
- Unexplained infertility
- Failed fertility treatment with Clomid, Letrozole, or Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
It’s important to discuss any serious medical illnesses with your IVF doctor. This may alter your potential for success or even make pregnancy dangerous for you.
Several issues can affect IVF success rates, including ovarian dysfunction, fibroid tumors, or polyps. Uterine or hormone level abnormalities can also lower your chance for IVF pregnancy.
The First Step in Infertility Treatment
Your doctor will first complete an evaluation and examination. The goal is to look for reasons that you’re having trouble conceiving.
Your doctor may also test for medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. It’s also important to assess your general health including your Body Mass Index (BMI).
Being overweight increases stress on the IVF process. This can cause miscarriages or preterm births, and lower your chances for success.
If you have a high BMI, counselors will help you work on managing your weight. The goal is to achieve a healthy BMI before taking the next step.
Benefits of In-Vitro Fertilization
Your provider will help you decide if IVF is a good choice for you. It can offer the best chance for successful treatment for those who’ve failed previous infertility options.
IVF helps women with low ovarian function or low egg counts, blocked fallopian tubes. For couples with male infertility or who have not gotten pregnant with multiple cycles of clomid or letrozole, IVF provides an opportunity to become pregnant.
Some women wish to freeze their eggs or embryos (fertilized eggs) to postpone pregnancy and preserve fertility. This choice allows couples to delay pregnancy due to cancer or other health problems. They may also have other reasons for wanting to wait to start a family.
IVF has become a popular option for same-sex couples to have a baby. IVF can triple the success of pregnancy and reduce the risk of twins or triplets.
Preparing for IVF
Take a complete list of your medical history and medications to your appointment. You’ll meet the infertility specialist and team for a consultation. The following tests are commonly ordered to look for causes of infertility:
- Blood tests for Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH), Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH), and Thyroid Hormones (TSH, T4) levels
- Semen analysis to check for quality and count
- Genetic testing to see if you and your partner are carriers for common genetic conditions
- Specific genetic testing if one partner is at risk or has a specific genetic condition
- Blood tests to screen for infectious diseases
- Blood tests to screen for immunity to CMV, Rubella, and Varicella
- Blood typing
Imaging tests will be performed to examine the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. These may include hysteroscopy and/or saline infusion sonohysterography (ultrasound). You may have a hysterosalpingogram to test for fallopian tube blockage or dilation.
Ovarian Reserve Testing checks the quantity and quality of the eggs. It is also used to get an idea of how you may respond to treatment.
An Antral Follicle Count (AFC) is a pelvic ultrasound performed early in your cycle. This provides a count of the number of eggs available for use in IVF.
Anti-Mullerian Hormone Test (AMH) measures the hormone released from the ovaries. This test also gives an estimate of the number of eggs (oocytes). These tests are often completed on certain days of your menstrual cycle.
Develop a Treatment Plan
After completing these tests, you will discuss the results with your doctor. You may also meet with a genetic counselor if indicated. The next step is developing your individual IVF plan.
Some individuals use a third party as part of their reproduction plan. This may involve choosing an egg donor, sperm donor, or gestational carrier. Those choosing this plan will undergo counseling with a reproductive psychologist as well.
The last step is meeting with the financial counselor. They will review the costs for IVF treatment and your level of insurance coverage. If your insurance doesn’t cover IVF, you will learn about other financing options.
Timeline for the Process of IVF
The first step involves optimizing your hormone levels. You’ll take oral contraceptive pills or estrogen (Estrace) for two to three weeks.
After starting your menstrual cycle, your doctor will have you take gonadotropin injections daily. This may include FSH, LH, and a third medication such as Ganirelix or Micro-Dose Lupron. The goal is to stimulate egg production and keep you from ovulating early.
You’ll have regular hormone level checks and ultrasounds. This lets you, your partner, and the doctor watch the egg’s growth.
Once the eggs are mature, the doctor removes the eggs from your ovaries. Ultrasound-guided equipment allows the doctor to perform this procedure in the office. This describes the process known as IVF or Egg Retrieval.
Next, the doctor directly injects the sperm into the eggs. In some cases, the egg and sperm are put together and allowed to interact and fertilize. This creates an embryo.
These embryos are then incubated for five to six days. Next, they’re frozen for six to eight weeks. This increases the pregnancy success rate and allows for genetic testing if you wish.
The final step involves transferring the embryo into your uterus. You can then take a simple pregnancy test 10-11 days after IVF to see if you’re pregnant. It’s important to know that many women may need more than one IVF treatment to achieve pregnancy.
Once you become pregnant, you’ll take fertility hormones for the first six to seven weeks. This helps nurture and support the embryo’s growth. You will also have an ultrasound to confirm your pregnancy and give you a due date.
Future ultrasounds and examinations will take place to check on the baby’s progress. Before, during, and after IVF, it’s important to focus on eating healthy, balanced meals. You also need to drink plenty of water and get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Ask your provider about exercising. Many women are encouraged to keep exercising throughout the pregnancy but you may need to reduce the intensity.
Many doctors prescribe prenatal vitamins for two to three months before IVF. This builds up your folic acid level which prevents birth defects in the brain and spinal cord. Some doctors suggest that male partners take prenatal vitamins to boost sperm health.
Some women wonder if they can have a “normal delivery” after getting pregnant with IVF. The method that achieved pregnancy doesn’t impact the delivery. You have the same ability to have a normal delivery as a woman that conceived naturally.
Every pregnant woman has the potential for unexpected events in pregnancy. This may lead your doctor to recommend a cesarean (C-section) delivery. Reasons for a C-section include the following listed below.
If your labor doesn’t progress or stalls, you may need a C-section. This means first-time moms have been actively laboring for over 20 hours. For women who’ve given birth before, prolonged labor is when it exceeds 14 hours.
Despite the long labor, the cervix doesn’t dilate (open) and efface (thin). Prolonged labor is one of the most common reasons for C-sections.
Incorrect Positioning of the Baby
In normal circumstances, the baby’s head should be pointing down to pass through the birth canal. Sometimes the baby’s feet are down (breech) or they’re sideways (transverse).
In this case, if the doctor can’t turn the baby, the baby can’t deliver normally. A C-section ensures a safe birth.
The Baby Is In Distress
When the baby can’t get enough oxygen it is called fetal distress. This is an emergency that requires a C-section to safely deliver the baby. Further assessment will take place to ensure there are no further problems.
Known Birth Defects
If the baby has known birth defects, they may need delivery by C-section for their safety. Examples include problems such as excess brain fluid or congenital heart disease.
Mothers With Previous C-Sections
Almost all women who previously had C-sections can deliver vaginally. It’s important to discuss the delivery options with your doctor. They’ll consider the reason for your previous C-section and any current risk factors.
Mother With a Chronic Health Condition
If you have a chronic health condition, you need to talk to your doctor about delivery options. C-sections may present fewer risks for certain individuals.
Some potential reasons include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Certain infections such as HIV or genital herpes may make a C-section the safer choice.
Are You Interested in Considering IVF?
This article provided a comprehensive overview of the timeline and process of IVF. If you’re interested in this option, speak with a specialist.
Dr. Krotz is world-renowned for his work in fertility care and research. Now he provides expert care to patients in Houston, Texas. Schedule an appointment today to discuss your options with Dr. Krotz.