The idea that we can start making babies outside of our bodies is pretty mind boggling. So what exactly happens? Let’s break it down.

Please note there are 2 types of IVF:
  • Natural: where the one and only egg that is released by the ovary is collected and then fertilised in the lab with sperm. This is known as natural because it is the naturally occurring egg produced by your body.
  • Conventional: where your ovaries are stimulated by hormones through injection in order to produce as many eggs as possible in one cycle. All the eggs are fertilised and the best are selected for transfer or freeze.

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1st Appointment

A good clinic should always do a bunch of tests on both of you to get a baseline assessment of your situation, so prepare yourself for some hard data being thrown at you. It will feel like you have been thrown in at the deep end, but you want answers! The tests will include, amongst others, sperm tests and an ovarian reserve test. These will help doctors decide what your best chances are and what kind of drugs you will need. Private clinics will expect you to come to the first appointment ready to be tested straight away so be prepared for that. On the NHS things may take a little longer… When to start treatment will depend on your menstrual cycle. Have any questions ready and don’t be afraid to ask!!

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Long or short protocol

Your doctor will determine whether you start on the long or short protocol, and this will depend on your test results. The short protocol means you start injecting your stimulation drugs immediately, with a natural period. In contrast the long protocol includes two distinct stages – first down-regulating (stopping your natural cycle) for ten days or so, and then injections. So, in essence, long or short, the good news is you could be pregnant in under 2 months once you get started!

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Stimulation Phase

Whoopee. Time to inject. Usually every night for 2 weeks (read our guide here). The clinic equips you with everything you need and it all comes in a neat little bag. During stimulation, you’ll be called in for scans and blood tests approximately once every 3 days to check that a)all the follicles are growing nicely and b)you’re not over stimulated (OHSS). Clinics are on the lookout for this so be clear with them if you don’t feel well. Your meds might be altered according to how you react to the hormones, so don’t worry if your quantities change throughout. It’s a fine line getting you to the point of near-ovulation! On the night before collection you’ll be expected to take what’s known as the Trigger Shot, a large dose that will ensure that the leading eggs are ripe and ready for the next day.

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Egg Collection

HARVEST DAY! Usually under general anaesthetic, this operation is quick and precise. When you wake after your op your doctor will be able to tell you how many eggs have been collected. That same day the eggs will be mixed with sperm (fresh if poss) and then the waiting begins…Have your phone at the ready as over the next few days you will receive daily phone calls from the clinic letting you know how well the eggs and sperm have fertilised, and how they are developing. Ideally they are looking for a good quality embryo to transfer on day 5, known as a blastocyst. At this stage you will need to have a lot of discussion around how many to transfer, to freeze…see our roller coaster guide here for help on this.

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Embryo Transfer

A very simple and easy procedure a bit like a smear. Literally takes five minutes.The tricky bit will be to try and relax whilst holding the required full bladder. But then you’re done! Embryo back in where it belongs. From this point onwards you’re in the 2 week wait. Read our survival guide here.

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Testing testing

Testing is usually 10 days after a fresh transfer or 14 days after frozen. Can be done with a pee stick from Boots in the comfort of your own home. Or you can go to the clinic and do a blood test. You should call the clinic with your result, positive or negative.

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The Result

If it’s positive the clinic will tell you what to do next, usually they offer a scan at 6 weeks. Incredibly, that is only 2 weeks away as on test day you are officially one month pregnant! If it’s negative, they will offer you a post consultation with your doctor to discuss how to move forward. We’ve put together a little something for When It Fails here.

My Beehive can help you too

We’ve put together an amazing little support pack to get you on your way to successful IVF treatment. Make your journey that bit easier by purchasing one of our lovely Care Packs, complete with all the nutritional and emotional gifts to ensure that all your needs are met.

Check out our IVF care pack here